On our June 2018 cover, New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author, Steena Holmes. Enjoy this exclusive interview.
Steena Holmes is an extremely successful author of fiction. She has had a great deal of success with focus on romance, Women’s Fiction, and now a psychological thriller. The key to success for Steena has been to always stay grounded and true to roots in her writing. It’s how she has sold two million copies of her novels worldwide, and this was most definitely the formula when she released a series of popular mainstream titles including Finding Emma, Stillwater Rising and her acclaimed novel series Saving Abby in May 2016. Holmes’ ability to provoke reader emotion and create works that people can identify with, has reinforced the Calgarian as one of the true mainstays of female Canadian fiction, with numerous accolades including being a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.
On April 1, 2018, Steena released The Forgotten Ones, her thirtieth novel and one that was written with her daughter’s influence in mind— her own daughter has battled with mental health and potential suicide issues for the past three years.
That battle has led to numerous medical emergency visits, stresses of possibly losing her daughter on multiple occasions, and a substantial number of counseling sessions that have hurt both financially and emotionally.
Turn the clock forward three years and Steena’s daughter is in a much better place..
The novel was an Amazon Best-Seller in its first week, but Steena didn’t write it for the accolades or the sales, she wrote it as a means of exercising her own demons and poured her heart and grief into this novel.
Steena has decided to generously donate fifty-percent of her sales proceeds on her print books—not cover price, but her royalties of The Forgotten Ones print format— to “The LifeLine Canada Foundation” out of British Columbia. “The LifeLine Canada Foundation” is a registered non-profit organization committed to positive mental health and suicide prevention in Canada and Worldwide.
Named in the Top 20 Women Author to read in 2015 by Good Housekeeping, she won the National Indie Excellence Award in 2012 for Finding Emma as well as the USA Book News Award for The Word Game in 2015. Having her Author brand featured repeatedly on sites such as Goodreads, BookBub, RedBook, and Goodhousekeeping, Steena is an authority on creating an effective author brand and has been invited to speak on the subject at various author forums around the world.
Q: You are on the cover of this issue and I noted that your focus appears to be on Indie-publishing. Your site offers tips, an email course on branding, and you give talks on the subject, including having won, among other things, the 2012 Indie Excellence Award.
A: Even though I started out as an Indie author, the tips and email course on branding is focused on every author, regardless of their publishing journey. In today’s publishing world, the author is responsible for their branding, their social interaction and building a reader base. My goal is to help them do that and to make it as easy as I can.
Q: How did you manage to get on the NY Times and USA Today bestseller lists as an indie publisher?
A: By focusing on my readers and connecting with other authors who had the same dreams and goals as I did.
Q: At what point in your life did you decide that you would go for a writing career? And at what point did you decide that you had made it?
A: It wasn’t until my mid 30’s that I had the courage to attempt to write. I wrote while working full time—I spent my evenings, weekends, lunch hours typing on my computer. The day I realized I could do this full time was when I realized I’d ‘made it’ as an author.
Q: You’ve sold around 2 million copies (congratulations). Are you surprised, and if not, what does continue to surprise you?
A: I’m always pleasantly surprised when I find out someone has not only bought but also read my book! When they contact me to tell me how much they loved the story, how parts of it felt like I’d written it just for them…those are the things that surprise me. Those are the things that matter to me.
Q: You are now breaking into the German and European markets. How are you doing this—by yourself, with agent, etc?
A: I’m doing this with Amazon Crossing as well as an agent. It’s been fabulous to discover readers in Hungary, Israel, Germany etc are reading my books.
[Note: Her books have been translated into 5 languages and counting.]
Q: Why should an author consider being an Indie, versus traditional, or a hybrid of both, which some authors do?
A: I don’t think it’s so much deciding between Indie versus traditional publishing, or even being hybrid; but more about choosing the right path for each book.
Maybe the story you’re writing isn’t long enough for a traditional publisher or it’s meant to be a book that comes out quickly, or you’re wanting to use it as a loss-leader for a new series…there are so many different reasons why someone would choose to self-publish a book over publishing it with a mainstream publisher. There’s no right or wrong answer; it all depends on what is best for that book and how it meets your readers needs.
Q: What is your writing process like? Long hand while eating chocolate? Computer while outdoors? What makes it work for you?
A: I start with a notebook where I work on my plot and then it’s 100% Scrivener. I love to sit outside on my patio or in my comfy chair, and I drink pots of coffee.
I love to snack on chocolate covered almonds or cake that my daughters consistently make. I tend to write late afternoon and evenings as well.
Q: What is the worst mistake you have made (professionally)?
A: This is a hard one as I tend to think of things as experiences. I agreed to work in series that wasn’t part of my branding and while I enjoyed writing the stories, my readers didn’t follow me to that series.
Q: Milk chocolate (Swiss), Dark chocolate, Infused chocolate (ie: brandy), Mixed (nuts/berries)?
A: Hands down milk chocolate! I don’t mind if it’s mixed with coconut or some nuts either. The best chocolate I’ve tasted was found in Brugge, Belgium at a place called Mary’s.
Q: What is the absolute best moment you have experienced?
A: The absolute best moment was when a reader contacted me about a story I’d written and she told me I’d written her story, that I’d place what she’d gone through into words she had never been able to say. It broke my heart and challenged me to always write with my heart.
Q: Any tough advice for new writers (tough because everyone always tells new writers how wonderful they are)?
A: You’re going to have days when you want to give up, when you’ll find any excuse not to be writing. If you are serious about this as a career, then put on your big boots, sit your butt down and make writing a priority. Life will always get in the way, there will always be reasons why you didn’t write, but if this is truly your passion, then you will find the time to sit down and finish your book – even if it takes you a few years. ∆
[Editor: Our thanks to Steena for this interview. She is not only a prolific author, but also, her involvement in many facets of writing, branding, and promotions need to be examined closely by any serious author.
Below we have included links and material from Steena’s websites and to other source material and interviews you may like to examine.]
FREE Five-Step Branding Course: http://eepurl.com/c12AnH
Branding with Intent Course: http://www.steenaholmes.com/branding-with-intent/
Cover Photo credit: Vanessa Pressacco Photography. Article photograph courtesy steenatravels.com