My author interviewee this week is the multi-talented Shelley Wilson, writing mentor and author of self-help books and YA fiction.
Q. Your latest book, Meditation for Children, a Book of Mindfulness was published last year. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
A. Before I started writing full-time, I ran a ladies-only holistic spa. Alongside my daily appointments I also ran meditation classes. One of my ladies asked me if I could write a short meditation for her four-year-old daughter as she wanted to come along with her mum to the class (it clashed with her bedtime!). I thought it was an excellent idea and set about writing a bespoke mini-meditation. The scripts I write for my adult clients are about half an hour but I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold a child’s attention for that long. I timed the piece so it lasted four minutes and included the breathing exercises I always do with my students. Tracey and Olivia came to my spa for a private meditation session and I sent them away with a printed copy of ‘Olivia’s Fairy Tree’ script. I was told that Olivia asked her parents to read the meditation night after night after night!
The seed was sown, and I started to write other mini-meditations until I had a collection of ten. When I pitched it to my publisher they loved the idea. I’d already secured the talents of a local artist, Phaedra Elson from Pipistrelle Art to work on five of the ten stories and bring them to life with a colourful image. I tweaked Olivia’s original story to include a bedtime routine and an activity routine so the meditations could be used in the home or classroom.
Since the book was published I’ve been overwhelmed with messages of thanks from parents and teachers. Although I wrote it for 5 – 9 year-olds, the short meditations have helped children as young as 4 with anxiety, and older children of 12 with autism and stress. I’ve shed a few tears on hearing how my mini-meditations have helped these children to cope with their issues and overwhelm.
Q. You’ve also written motivational books for adults, a book about blogging, as well as YA novels in the horror/supernatural genre. What can we expect from you next?
A. I’ve clearly got far too much to say! LOL. I signed a ten-book deal with my publisher, BHC Press, in 2017 and so far I’ve written five books for the contract (two non-fiction and three fiction). We have a rough release schedule with The Phantom’s Curse (YA) due out this summer, The Last Princess (YA) in 2021, and Self-Help for the Helpless due for release in 2022. I’m currently working on another YA series using my favourite supernatural creatures as my muse – vampires!
Q. Which do you enjoy working on the most? Non-fiction or fiction and why?
A. I love writing non-fiction self-help books as that allows me to stay connected with the holistic side of my life. Unfortunately, I had to close my spa due to illness five years ago, which was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Keeping that link to my spiritual and personal development side is important to me. My YA novels, however, are a guilty pleasure and my means of escape. It’s a genre I’ve enjoyed reading since I discovered it in my thirties and one I love to explore as a writer. In my head I’m still a teenager; unfortunately, the mirror tells a different story!!
If I had to choose a favourite it would be my fiction. To be able to create worlds in my head and then act them out on the page allows me to momentarily disconnect from being a single mum of three, business and homeowner, and all the other adulting tasks. Who wouldn’t want to be a faerie, a witch, or a werewolf hunter?
Q. Where do you get your ideas from?
A. My non-fiction ideas come from years of working within the mind, body, spirit industry and understanding what my audience is looking for. Personal development is unique to the individual, but we all seek similar answers to help us navigate our lives. I try to unlock the power we all have inside us.
My YA story ideas come from a million sources. The Guardian Series landed in my head after seeing a photograph in a magazine of a gravestone with three hooded figures. Hood Academy (my werewolf/hunter book) came from my daughter’s creative writing homework, where she had to re-create a fairy tale. I volunteered the idea that she turn Little Red Riding Hood into a werewolf assassin – she turned it down but I ran with it! My 2021 release, The Last Princess, is set in 866 AD and follows a princess as Vikings take her. The idea for this came after doing my (spit in a tube) Ancestry DNA and discovering a possible ancestral link to Vikings.
I love to travel and can find inspiration everywhere. I’ve recently been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, so I’m sure you can guess the story ideas I’ll be working on next!
Q. What’s the hardest thing you find about being a writer?
A. There are a few things I struggle with. The first is isolation. When writing my fiction I need to get out of the house and write in a coffee shop or the library otherwise I’ll procrastinate for hours, which brings me to the second thing I struggle with. I’m a nightmare for scrolling through my newsfeed and wasting hours on social media. When I’ve got a deadline approaching I have to leave my phone in another room and only have word open on my computer.
Q. Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
A. I self-published my first book in May 2014, which was a blog to book project. How I Changed My Life in a Year really did change everything for me. I was fortunate that a prominent book blogger spotted my promotional tweets and bought the book; their review catapulted it up the best seller listings. I hit number one in self-help and women’s biographies in January 2015 and again in 2016. It stayed in the top ten for years bouncing around with the biggest names in self-help. An acquisitions editor from Penguin Random House got in touch with me about acquiring the title for their self-help imprint in 2016. Although nothing came of that meeting, it was the validation I needed to believe in myself as a writer. I was then approached by WF Howes who were interested in producing the audio version. They took on two of my non-fiction books with actress, Lara J West, as narrator. I continued to self-publish a further eight titles (four non-fiction books and four fiction) before BHC Press offered me a book deal in 2017.
Q. You’re also a writing mentor. What does that involve?
A. The mentoring business found me if I’m honest! I’m an avid networker in my local area and started to use the various women in business sessions to promote my books. I even became an associate with the Socially Shared Business Development Network hosting a monthly event and writing their blog posts. As people got to know me, they asked for help writing business blog posts and website or newsletter content. I was also asked over and over how I started writing a book and how to self-publish. I began to run workshops for new writers looking at getting that book idea out of their head and down on paper. The majority of my clients are women looking to write and publish a business book or memoir.
The more I advertised these workshops, the more people got in touch to find out how I could help them. If someone couldn’t get to a physical event or they lived at the opposite end of the country, I started doing 121 mentoring sessions using the Zoom online platform.
When I put on my vision board that I wanted to write for a living, this wasn’t quite what I imagined. However, I love the variety of work I do. One day I’ll be writing copy for a big exhibition at Olympia in London, the next I’ll be working 121 with a new writer and producing a roadmap for them to follow as they write their book, and then I might be batch writing blog posts for coaches, designers, or accountants. I’ve started using the strapline “your words are my business”.
Q. Do you get time to read yourself and if you do, what books do you read?
A. My reading has been shocking over the last two years due to my depression and anxiety. I struggle to switch off. Once upon a time, I could log 100+ books on the Goodreads challenge and smash that goal, but lately, I’m lucky to hit 10. It’s frustrating more than anything as I’ll read a blurb, get excited, buy a book, and then not be able to concentrate, which means the book remains half read. I’m so fortunate that this horrible fog hasn’t disrupted my writing.
On the plus side, the books I have managed to read from start to finish have been extra special as they’ve managed to keep me hooked. The majority are dystopian, post-apocalyptic, or old YA favourites such as City of Bones. Oddly, I can read non-fiction without any issues, so I’ve devoured how-to books, personal development, and business books without a problem.
Q. I don’t know how you fit everything in! What do you enjoy doing in your spare time (if you get any!)
A. Haha, I’m not sure if I can answer that! I’ve been a single mum to my three children for 16 years, so learning to juggle everything has become a fine art. My kids are now 21, 19, and 17 and their needs have changed, which means I’m on my own the majority of the time.
Writing my fiction novels has never felt like work to me and I spend a lot of my spare time writing. I also love exploring historical sites and being by water which means I spend half of my time planning trips and the other half travelling to amazing places. When writing The Last Princess, I took a trip to Northumberland for research and fell in love with the area. I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a travel blog around writing research!
My other passion is going to the cinema. I’ve had a Cineworld Unlimited card for three years and will happily go on my own at any time of the day or night. I’d love to learn how to do scriptwriting one day.
Q. Finally, what advice can you give to writers who haven’t yet had the break they’re looking for?
A. Don’t wait for it to fall in your lap. If you’re passionate about something (and you have a talent for writing), then you have to go out and get it and make it happen. Throughout my early writing career, I always conducted myself as a businesswoman who was proud to publish independently. Surrounding myself with the right team (professional editor, proofreader, cover designer, formatting expert, etc.) helped me create a professional profile that showed the world I meant business.
I was told several times by friends who were traditionally published that they assumed I had a traditional contract because of the way I presented myself both online and off. That was a huge compliment for me. When Penguin Random House got in touch I realised all that hard work had paid off.
BHC Press also saw that determination, passion, and dedication to succeed in me, which is why they offered me a contract and why we work well together as a team.
Never give up. Write, read, and network. Enter competitions, join creative writing groups and connect with fellow writers in your genre.
I’ll leave you with the final piece of advice I give to my mentoring clients when they struggle with self-doubt or feel overwhelmed by the projects and possibilities. “Own it! You ARE a writer, and the world needs your story.”
Social media links:
Author Website/Blog: http://www.shelleywilsonauthor.com
Writing Mentor: https://shelleywilsonwritingmentor.com