CW: Tell us about yourself.
SR: My name is Sara Ridley and I live in a small outback town in remote Australia. I have self-published four novels and own a blog, Life Of A Storyteller (http://www.lifeofastoryteller.com/), dedicated to helping aspiring authors write, publish and market their novels. When I am not typing away at my computer, I have my head in a book or am trying to come up with new theories for Game of Thrones.
CW: When and why did you start writing?
SR: Since the age of 12, I always knew I wanted to become a writer. It wasn’t until I asked my Grandmother if I could write her life story did that become a reality. I started researching her life in 2013, and two years later self-published her story for the world to read. As a sufferer of onset dementia, I wanted her to always be able to remember the life she lived. That is why I wrote the novel.
CW: Give us an overview of your books. Which one is your favorite? Why?
SR: Since 2015, I have self-published four novels. The first is a memoir centered on the life of my Grandmother during WWll called ‘Unspoken Words.’ The second is a coming of age romance novel centered on real life aspects and people called ‘Boy.Girl.You.’ The last two are informational and teaching novels at Life Of A Storyteller called ‘How to Write a Strong Novel: The 9 Key Pillars to Focus on’ and ‘The Novel Planning Blueprint: An Every Day Planner for Writers.’
My favourite novel out of the four is ‘Unspoken Words.’ It was such an incredible experience to work alongside my Grandmother and discover her life story and be able to tell that story to her friends, family, and those who are interested in reading the novel.
CW: Who/what was your biggest inspiration?
SR: There have been many people who have influenced my writing career since it begun. My main inspiration for writing comes from my Mum. Growing up in a remote outback town leaves you with limited opportunities to spread your wings. A lot of people believed I was simply a dreamer, that becoming a writer was unrealistic.
It was my Mum who inspired me and told me that I could be anything I want. That society’s expectations of who I had to become shouldn’t hold me back. I took her advice, and if I hadn’t listened to her all those years ago I wouldn’t be where I am today.
CW: Who are your favorite authors? Why?
SR: I am a fantasy geek, so naturally speaking my favourite authors are those who write in the fantasy genre. Each author for me brings something special to the table. My favourite authors include George R.R. Martin for his use of dialogue and character building, J. R.R. Tolkien for his world building, Patrick Rothfuss for his unbelievable descriptive writing, and J.K. Rowling for her storytelling.
CW: Do you have a favorite genre? If so, what do you enjoy most about it?
SR: My favourite genre is fantasy. What I enjoy the most about this genre is that it has the ability to transport you from your reality into a fictitious world of pure imagination. A world, whether good or bad, that creates magic.
CW: What has been your greatest challenge?
SR: My greatest challenge as a writer has been acceptance. I come from a small mining town that can place certain expectations on what you are to become once you leave school, such as a nurse or a hairdresser. I was never one to follow the rules of society and realized that I wasn’t going to settle for anything less than my dreams.
When I told people I was writing a novel, some were supportive or interested. However, the majority didn’t understand why I would waste my time on something that wouldn’t be a lifelong job. Building myself as a respected writer and gaining that acceptance has been challenging, yet rewarding. I didn’t cheat my way around the bend, I earned their acceptance.
CW: What kind of characters do you create? Why?
SR: I have always believed that the best type of characters are those that the reader can relate to. Characters should be flawed, have both strengths and weaknesses, contain real life aspects, have internal struggles, afflictions, and so on. In life, we are not perfect. Your characters shouldn’t be either, and that is the sort of character I like to write in all of my novels.
CW: Do you write from an outline, or do you simply write whatever enters your mind?
SR: I have always found that when I have a basic blueprint in front of me it is easier to write the story. It acts as a roadmap that guides my writing, characters, and plot. Another thing I like to do before sitting down to write my story is to create an outline for each of my main and secondary characters. A lot of the time writers tend to focus more on their plot than their characters. Every time I read a story it is the characters I connect with, and that is why I believe it is important to focus on them as well.
CW: What do you most want readers to take from your book(s)?
SR: With each novel that I write, there is an underlying message within them. Each message is symbolic to that novel, however, I believe in each of my novels I try to inspire hope. Fear is such a strong emotion us humans have in us, whether it be a fear of moving forward in our lives, fear of falling in love, fear of writing a novel, for instance. As President Snow states in the Hunger Games, ‘the only thing stronger than fear is hope.’ With a little hope, I believe we can move mountains.
CW: Are you actively trying to have your books made into a play or a movie?
SR: Currently, I have no plans on turning my published novels into a play or movie. Does that mean I don’t think about what it would be like to see my novels on the big screen or what actors would play my characters? Not at all. One day I would like to see my novels on the big screen but for now, I appreciate them in the format of a novel.
CW: Do you have an agent? If so, describe your agent’s value.
SR: I do not have an agent. When self-publishing my first novel I contemplated on getting an agent or someone that could help me along the way. I chose not to, however, because it was something I felt I needed to do myself. Writing my first novel was such a personal journey of discovery that I felt I had to be the one to step over the finish line. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t seek help, but it was something I wanted to learn for myself so I could, in turn, help others just like me. That is why I started Life Of A Storyteller.
CW: What’s next for you as an author?
SR: As they say, the world is our oyster! I am currently working on a fantasy series that has been in the works for almost two years. I have no plans on releasing that anytime soon as I am still in the world building stage, however, would like to see it traditionally published in the coming years. I do, however, plan on helping as many writers as I can publish their novels, whether that be self-publishing or traditional publishing.
CW: How did you pick a publisher or decide to self-publish? Do you have an agent?
SR: At first, I did try to get my first novel, ‘Unspoken Words’ traditionally published but had no luck. I received rejection letter after rejection letter. I was, of course, discouraged by this as any author would be. It was then that I decided to take matters into my own hands and try self-publishing. It has honestly been the best thing I have ever done. Not only did I get my novel out there to the world, but I had complete control over it. Because of this, I decided to self-publish my next three novels. I would, however, eventually like to see one of my novels get traditionally published and see what that side of the industry has to offer.
CW: Do you have suggestions to other writers about the writing process or being published?
SR: Writing a novel isn’t an easy task. It can be extremely overwhelming and lonely. My advice to you is, during both the writing and publishing process, join writing communities that can encourage and support you along your journey. Not only will you create friends, but you will be able to gain help, advice, and resources from your fellow writers. Another bit of advice I have for you is to just have fun. Don’t think about how many copies you will sell or how much money you will make. Think about the people you are inspiring through your words, and the lives you will impact.
CW: How do you market yourself and your books? What works well? What doesn’t?
SR: I market myself and my books through my blog, Life Of A Storyteller. I recommend that every author should have a platform where they can market their novels, talk about themselves and the writing process, and update their community of readers on what is happening with you next.
By having a blog, it is a lot easier to control your marketing process as well. You can link your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, etc up to your blog and drive your readers to the one place. For me, this has resulted in more sales and a tighter reading community. At Life Of A Storyteller, I also offer insight into how to start up a blog, manage it, and promote it to the online world.
CW: Where can someone buy your books?
SR: If you are interested in checking out my novels, you can find more information about them and where to purchase at this link: http://www.lifeofastoryteller.com/shop/
CW: What would you like your Writer’s Epitaph to say?
SR: ‘Never give up searching for your dreams, because one day they can become your reality.’