Welcome to the latest installment of Breaking In, where I interview authors about their experiences breaking in as writers — how they did it, what it felt like to get there, and how it differed from what they were expecting.
Today I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to interview a writer whose many accomplishments and responsibilities make me feel just a bit guilty about ever claiming that I don’t have the time to write – author Samantha Saboviec.
As she notes on her website, Samantha, who publishes as S. L. Saboviec, grew up in a small town in Iowa but became an expat for her Canadian husband, whom she met in the Massive Multi-player Online Role-Playing Game Star Wars: Galaxies. She has three daughters, including twin toddlers. She’s a member of the Codex Writers’ Group and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and is a slush reader for Flash Fiction Online. She’s also currently undergoing treatment for metastatic breast cancer, a process which she discusses frankly and thoughtfully on her blog and on Twitter.
She impresses the heck out of me.
She is perhaps best-known for her Fallen Redemption series of novels. The third and most recent is the companion novel The Impending Possession of Scarlet Wakebridge-Rosé.
Scarlet Wakebridge-Rosé, busy executive and less-than-stellar mother and wife, has a problem that only an exorcist can solve. Except she’s not precisely a devout Catholic parishioner any longer, and to gain assistance from the Church means telling a whopping lie of omission.
Fortunately, she discovers Father Angelo Ambrosio, whose commitment to helping the afflicted means he’s willing to overlook the things Scarlet prefers to keep hidden. Unfortunately, his sordid past keeps him under a microscope with the bishop, who’s not so liberal in his views.
But the demon harassing Scarlet is relentless. It makes its motives clear: in a previous life, she struck a bargain, promising it her body on her fiftieth birthday. Now, she and Angelo must unravel the mystery surrounding her forgotten past in order to stop the possession by next week or risk losing her to the depths of Hell forever.
This stand-alone novel set in the Fallen Redemption universe extends the series to modern day. Enter a world where humans reincarnate, demons interfere in daily life, and the currents of fate carry us all to our destinies.
The series is self-published; see her website for links to find and buy the books via your preferred online vendor.
This is another Breaking In post focusing on a fellow contributor to Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-One). So, yep, as I’ve noted, some degree of bias here.
[SGM] Welcome to the blog, Samantha! To begin, when did you feel like you’d broken in as a writer?
[SLS] Did that happen already? Ha! I’d say a few months ago, I had a moment of feeling like I’d graduated to a new level (whatever that might be) when I realized I had six stories published or pending. It’s an arbitrary number, for sure, but it’s more than a couple—when I could say perhaps it was a fluke I got published.
What was your path to breaking in? Did you have a strategy? Did it work, or did you end up getting there another way?
My plan was to write my first novel, find an agent, find a major publisher, and become a New York Times Bestselling author. You know, the Hollywood novelist trope. As anyone who’s been around the writing community for five minutes knows, that’s not how it works.
After querying my first novel unsuccessfully, I spent a lot of time soul-searching. I decided I liked the idea of self-publishing and went about teaching myself. I spent way more time (and money!) on writing craft, learning to critique, and edits than I did on marketing. After publishing the three novels I have out and realizing that “if you build it, they will come” is not a viable marketing strategy, I started educating myself on the business side of self-publishing.
Prior to getting pregnant with the twins and getting my cancer diagnosis when they were five months old, I had a tidy plan for how the rest of my writing career would go. I was in several self-publishing writing communities, I’d read all the books by all the big name SPers, and I was working on my next trilogy. I was going to publish them rapid-fire this past January while working on the next set. Boom! I’d be a serious author!
So that takes us to October 27, 2017, the day of my diagnosis. The story there is so dramatic you might think I’m making it up: I had had a biopsy of the “jaw anomaly” a few days before. I was working on edits to one of the books when the phone rang. My oral surgeon’s office. “Can you come in today?” asked the receptionist. “No, not next week. Today.”
That’s when I knew. I couldn’t fathom what. But I knew it was bad. I didn’t write or edit another word for months after that.
I kept up submitting finished short stories even while in chemotherapy, but I’m still struggling to write. Chemo is brutal. It sapped all my physical energy, let alone all my creative energy.
However, my goals and approach haven’t changed. They’ve just been unexpectedly delayed for a bit of time. What’s a year in the span of the universe, though? People will still be reading books when I’m ready.
And following up on that, knowing what you do now, what would you do differently?
Well, besides not getting cancer—
*Everyone laughs awkwardly*
—I would wait to self-publish my first novel until the entire trilogy was finished. That’s what I’m doing with this next trilogy. (As a side note, it’s actually steamy SF romance, so I’m writing it under a different pen name: Ariel Jade. Marketing!) I should have spent time on learning the industry. I did know that at the time I published Guarding Angel. I just decided I should go ahead anyway. I wanted my book out in the world. And that’s okay. (I did hope something would happen without marketing, but I knew it wasn’t likely.)
If I could wave a magic wand, I’d want to change the reality of traditional publishing to the fantasy that I had when I knew nothing about it. You know—easy, quick, lucrative. But since the publishing industry seems to be in something of a crisis, I’m happy to be self-publishing. I’m not opposed to traditional publishing, but I like moving forward. There is way too much “hurry up and wait” in trad.
Now that you’ve broken in, is it like or unlike what you expected? How?
I thought I’d be prouder to be where I am, but I think everyone suffers from Imposter Syndrome. Lately I’ve been working on the more spiritual side of life, and this is one area I’ve specifically been trying to improve. Feeling grateful for what I have and feeling proud of my accomplishments. That’s something everyone can do no matter where they are in their career. Look how far you’ve come, and congratulate yourself for the work you’ve done so far.
What are you working on now?
Part of my struggle to get writing again is knowing where to put my energy. I have developmental edits to apply to the last book in the Fallen Redemption universe; I need to work on those three SF romance books; too many anthology calls are tempting me; I’m long overdue for posting an update to my cancer-journey blog; a friend and I are brainstorming ideas for a collaborative project; and a fantasy short story inspired by my cancer is burning in my soul.
I think the cancer story is going to win out because I feel like I need to say something about everything I’ve been through. I’m working on it, but it’s at a snail’s pace. I’ve never struggled like this to write before, but I’ve also, well, never been this sick before.
Yeah, that spiritual stuff I mentioned? I’m in a huge battle with letting go of my perfectionist ways right now.
How can people keep up with you online?
You can subscribe to my newsletter at http://www.saboviec.com/newsletter/ and get a free short story in the universe my novels are written! I’ve gone quiet for a while, but three months out from chemo, I’m gaining strength. Hopefully before the end of the year, I’ll be back on the writing saddle regularly.
Thank you to Samantha for the interview! I’m grateful to her for sharing the more personal elements of her story — sharing that sort of thing, openly and directly, is one of the things that I’m working on.
As a reminder, you can read her story ‘Pirates Don’t Make Amends’ in Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-One), which is available now as an ebook from Amazon. Print copies will be available shortly, and you can be sure that I’ll be open and direct about sharing that news.
Coming up next on the blog: This is the final Tesseracts-focused Breaking In interview, so I’m not sure! After my hiatus, I find that I’m really enjoying blogging more regularly again, although I’m not sure I can keep it up at this pace without interviewees doing most of the actual writing! Nevertheless, stay tuned!