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Contact: Elena Hartwell - elenahartwell@gmail.com and visit me on the web at www.elenahartwell.com

Spotlight on Deborah Schneider

Deborah Schneider writes Western and Americana romance novels. Her publishing career began when she won the Molly Award for the most unsinkable heroine from the Denver Chapter of Romance Writers of America. She was a finalist in the New Historical Voice contest sponsored by Romantic Times Booklovers Magazine. Although she didn’t win the contest, her consolation prize was a publishing contract for Beneath A Silver Moon. Her next book, Promise Me, won the EPIC award for Best Western Romance.

As Sibelle Stone she writes historical romance with paranormal elements, (things like magic, witches and evil Druids) and steampunk with incredible machines. It’s the same person, but with two different sides. Sibelle’s newest release is a steampunk Western romance, Prudence and the Professor.
Both Sibelle and Deborah reside in a small town near the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest. Deborah is employed by one of the busiest libraries in the country in a job that involves arranging programs with authors, storytellers, musicians, dancers and jugglers. Deborah received the Romance Writers of America Librarian of the Year Award in 2009.

The Interview -- Part II

Scroll Down to Read Part I

What kind of research do you do for your books? How does it vary between sub-genres?
I love research, so I probably spend far more time doing it than necessary. I work for a library, so I have the best research assistants in the world available to me. I like to read books so the internet is not my first choice when working on a new manuscript. There’s a lot of mis-information out there, so I have a great collection of historical research books and I access the resources where I work. I do use the Internet for a quick question while I’m writing, especially maps and locations. I also am addicted to Pinterest, and I use it for settings and clothing. I create notebooks for my research so when I’m writing the series books I can track things like character names, setting references and historical notes.
Since all of my books so far have been historical there hasn’t been much difference in the research. I have set three books in Montana, so that’s been a continuing link. More of the “Brides of Jubilee” will be set there. The “Mystic Moon” series about the witches are challenging because they are set it 1663. I had to do a lot of research to find out about ships for that particular time period. I finally found a ship that sank when it was brand new in Sweden and they have it in a museum there.
The most fun can be creating the steampunk elements. I work hard to create machines that either actually exist now or could have existed at the time with a bit more imagination. I don’t want machines that are totally imaginary since I’m setting my books in a real historical time period. 
How does your job with the library, working with writers, storytellers, jugglers, and other "entertainers" impact your writing?

Many of my author friends are jealous of my job, because it’s not only a lot of fun, but I get paid to hang out with published authors, storytellers, musicians and creative folks. Not to mention that I have very smart friends, (librarians). I think all art is creative, and meeting and getting to talk to people who are following their hearts and being creative at their day job fuels the “engine” for wanting to be more creative. That influences my writing and my life. I’m so fortunate to have become friends with some amazing writers, and they have given me incredible feedback. My goal is to make every book I write better than the last one. Having writer friends who tell me the truth is valuable.

I love creating author events and writing workshops for the library system. There’s a direct connection between those who write books and the people who champion them. I think the library is a great place for writers.

I work in the Community (Public) Relations department of the library system, so I’ve learned about marketing and publicity. That is valuable when you are a published author. We’re responsible for a lot of marketing now, as the publicity departments at major publishers have shrunk. And, when you are an “Indie” author, it’s all on your shoulders to be the marketing department.  
What are you working on now?

I’m finishing the edits on a contemporary romance, “Domestic Goddess” that I wrote several years ago. It’s about a television life-style diva who learns her fiancĂ© wants to become a woman just before she launches a new show that is supposed to be all about their “wedding of the century”. I sent the book around, got some great comments about the writing but figured the subject was a bit too challenging for publishers to take on. But now—it seems timely. I have a publisher in mind, but if it doesn’t work out, I’ll Indie publish it. 

Final Words of Wisdom

Learn your craft and write, write, write. When you finish a book you should celebrate, give yourself a huge pat on the back when you type “the end”, (many people who start a book never finish it), and then begin working on the next project. Many new writers spend a lot of time rewriting, polishing, sending it out and put all their energy into that first book. I didn’t sell my first book, but I learned a lot about writing by completing a manuscript. Then I learned more by joining a good writer’s group and organizing a critique group. I’m still writing with one member of that original group, after twenty-two years!

The most important thing: If you quit, I guarantee you will never get your book published. 

Perseverance in this business is key. I’ve seen so many changes in the publishing industry, especially in the past few years. Indie publishing allows good books that might never have been published, because they don’t fit a preconceived notion of what readers want, to reach an audience. New sub-genres are being created and mixing genres is gaining popularity.

It’s a great time to be a writer, but it’s also a very competitive market for authors. You have to make every book your best, learn how to market yourself— and your books— and stay current with an industry that is constantly changing.

It’s a challenge and if you can stop writing because you are too discouraged, you probably should quit. But, if the desire to see your words, your world and your characters come to life in a book and share with readers burns too hard and fast within you, then keep writing.

Good luck!

The Interview -- Part I

With several books under your belt, what advice would you give a writer at the beginning of their career?

Join a writing group and learn your craft. The best thing I did to improve my writing after completing my first book was to join RWA (Romance Writers of America) because they offer some great workshops presented by published authors. There are different writing organizations all over the country, and save money to attend a writing conference. You need to invest in your writing education just like any other profession.

What drew you to write romance novels, and then specialize in Western, Americana, and later historical with paranormal elements?
I lived with my grandmother and aunt for many years when I was younger. They were avid readers and they loved romance novels and romance magazines. I picked up the Gothic romances first, with the covers of dark houses in the background and a heroine running away from something scary. I read classics, like Dickens, in high school, even when the books weren’t assigned. I didn’t read romance books again until I was in college. A friend who was an avid romance reader gave me “The Flame and the Flower” by Kathleen Woodiweiss. That book was a gateway drug for many of us, it made me want to read —and keep reading— those emotional books about relationships with a “happy ever after” ending.
I have a degree to teach American History, always a passion of mine, so when I decided to start writing a book I chose an important event in history, well – women’s history. My first book was set in upstate NY with a heroine who attended the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848. That was a huge mistake, since the romances that were selling were Westerns and English Regency set books. When I decided to work on my second book, “Beneath A Silver Moon” I knew I had to choose a setting that was more “marketable” so I chose the American West. I love writing about cowboys.
As paranormal books became popular I developed an idea for a series around a family of witches with the question, “what if you were accused of practicing magic, and it was true?” That was how “Whistle Down the Wind” developed. At the same time I attended my first steampunk convention, and knew I’d found my people. Victorian settings and lifestyle, fantastic machines and paranormal activity! I was hooked and that interest turned into the “Brides of Jubilee” series with my book, “Prudence and the Professor”. My new release, “Heart of Ice” is a Gothic Romance,(back to my early reading choices) with steampunk elements set in Iceland. I happened to visit Iceland on the way back home from a trip to France, and the landscape was so amazing, I had to write a book set there.
My problem is that I have started two series and I’m not a prolific writer due to a demanding day job. So, the books come out pretty slowly for today’s super-speed market.
With those different sub-genres in Romance, you write under both Deborah Schneider and Sibelle Stone. The first for your Western and Americana Romance, the second for your Historical with paranormal elements. What made you choose to write under two different names?
I started writing my first book in 1992, so I’ve been at this for a while. In the good old days, when I started, if you changed genres—you created a pseudonym, that’s just how it was done. This was before Amazon and KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) made Ebook publishing so important. So, when I decided I wanted to write paranormal and fantasy books, I used a pen name I’d created a long time ago just in case I ever decided to write under a different name. I’d already purchased the domain name, which is very important if you are creating a pseudonym. Get the domain name first!
Now that Ebooks are such a big part of publishing, this really isn’t as necessary. Readers search for genres more than author names. The search engines are so good at sorting out types of books, it won’t confuse readers to see an author branch out to write different time periods.
That said, I’m not sure the readers of my Westerns would follow to read the paranormal and steampunk books. They are different, although the steampunk books are really Westerns. Looking back now, knowing what I know, I wouldn’t create the new name. I’d write all of my books under my own name.
The main reason: Branding! I have to maintain two websites, two Facebook pages and remember when I’m doing events that I’m actually Deborah/Sibelle. The upside though is that I always portray Sibelle as my “evil twin” and can blame things on her.

Sibelle does have a nice life, while Deborah has a day job, Sibelle creates steampunk costumes and wears nice hats. She’s pretty lucky.  

If you are in a position to not want your “true identity” known, then using a pseudonym is a great idea. If you are only using it to brand, then I’d reconsider because you are going to spend more time creating two different author personas, online and in person.
Check back August 15th for Part II!