Stories have arcs. Characters have arcs. Writers have arcs. We write, we get better at our craft. We read, we get better at our craft. We interact with other writers and our readers, we get better at our craft. Whether you are a professional writer or just starting out. Hobby or career. We are all in this together. Welcome.

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

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!

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