I love discovering new authors! Shelly Bell found a small e-publisher to champion her novel, A YEAR TO REMEMBER. After a few days of a hook-craze on Women’s Fiction Writers, I hope you’ll notice the amazing hook for Shelly’s novel, which I’ve highlighted below. I’ve always found the best way to learn is not only by doing, but by watching other people do it right. I think you’ll learn a lot from Shelly Bell.
Please welcome Shelly to Women’s Fiction Writers!
Women’s Fiction Author Shelly Bell Talks About E-books, Small Publishers and Not Writing To The Market
ASN: Your book, A YEAR TO REMEMBER, will be published by Soul Mate Publishing, an e-book publisher that focuses on romance but encourages overlapping of genres, including women’s fiction. What’s the story in A YEAR TO REMEMBER and what makes it lean toward women’s fiction?
SB: A Year to Remember focuses on the choices which lead Sara Friedman to hit rock bottom and then recover from food addiction. When her younger brother marries on her twenty-ninth birthday, Sara Friedman vows to the wedding guests to find and marry her soul mate within the year. After her humiliating toast becomes a YouTube sensation, she permits a national morning show to chronicle her search.
While the book definitely contains plenty of romance, the story focuses on Sara’s physical, emotional and spiritual journey to recovery. It’s written in first person POV, which I chose specifically to give the reader access to the thoughts of an addict. Oftentimes, the actions of an addict don’t mirror her thoughts.
ASN: How much of “Shelly” is the main character — or any of the characters?
SB: I leave bits and pieces of me on every page of the book and in every character, especially Sara and her best friend, Missy.
Like me, Sara is an overweight Jewish woman with black curly hair. We’re a dime a dozen in Metro-Detroit! We also both suffer from the disease of compulsive eating, but Sara’s behaviors and distorted perceptions are characteristic of many food addicts.
My younger brother did marry before me and I did admit to my jealousy in a toast. Luckily, it was before the age of YouTube. When I was twenty-nine, I threw a lot of my energy, time and money into a search for “the one.” In a year’s time, I think I went on twenty first dates. It was a difficult time for me. I had just about given up hope when I met my husband.
ASN: What’s your writing process? Do you outline and plan or fly by the seat of your pants?
SB: The idea for A Year to Remember came to me on the drive from my house to the movie theater. I skipped the movie and wrote the outline while waiting in the lobby for my family. The complete story came to me like it was downloaded to my brain. The same thing happened with my current work-in-progress.
I begin with a rough outline of the plot and create basic character descriptions. For some reason, I like to give a psychological diagnosis to each main character! It helps me develop the character’s motivation and internal conflict. For instance, in my current WIP, the heroine has post-traumatic stress disorder. I don’t state that fact in the book, but she acts and reacts in a manner consistent with the disorder. Knowing her motivation and goals aided in the creation of the character’s external conflicts.
As I write, the story changes and grows. I might know that two characters will have an argument, but not know what the basis of the argument is until I write the scene.
ASN: Aspiring women’s fiction authors (and all aspiring authors) have more choices and decisions than ever before. What led you to pursue a small e-publisher rather than a traditional “big” publisher or self-publish? (this might easy be asked as — what was your publishing journey?)
SB: I didn’t start writing with the intent of publication. I felt like I had to write the book. Out of curiosity, I began researching the process of publication. When I completed the book, I queried agents. Although it did catch the interest of a few agents, they informed me it would be a tough sell to traditional publishers.
I’ve met several writers through Romance Writers of America that have gained success through e-publishing. Unfortunately, most e-publishers only acquire romance. Through Savvy Authors, I heard that Soul Mate Publishing was seeking submissions in women’s fiction. Although it’s a new company, several writers praised its founder Debby Gilbert. I submitted my book and she acquired it.
Because it’s a competitive market, traditional publishing houses can’t afford to take risks. A smaller publisher isn’t as limited. As a result, they can acquire books that don’t meet the traditional publisher’s criteria.
As a reader, I’ve been exposed to new authors and wonderful stories I never would have gotten the chance to read if not for the e-publishers. I read a book a day, so it saved me money too!
I didn’t consider self-publishing. While I think it’s a wonderful alternative, I didn’t feel comfortable with it.
ASN: How would you define women’s fiction?
SB: When non-writers ask me what genre I write and I tell them women’s fiction, they have no idea what I’m talking about. I define it as books about women, written for women. I’m not insulted by the categorization, but at the same time, I feel it’s really an industry term. Over the years, I’ve read plenty of books classified as general fiction which may now be marketed as women’s fiction. If calling my book women’s fiction helps it find readers, then I’m all for it.
ASN: What is your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction in this ever-changing publishing world?
SB: Write for yourself, not the market, because by the time you finish, the market will have changed. Don’t get discouraged by rejection. Use it as a learning opportunity. If your goal is publication, consider small publishers and e-publishers. Most importantly, keep reading and keep writing.
Shelly Bell started reading at three years old. In elementary school, the librarian gave her books to test out for the school library. As a teenager, she spent her allowance each week on romance novels, enjoying both young adult category romance, young adult paranormal and single title books, and adult romance.
She received her Bachelors of Arts in Social Work and a Certificate in Women Studies from Michigan State University in 1990, where she interned at both the Michigan State Sexual Assault Crisis Center as a counselor and the Michigan Women’s Historical Museum as a docent.
Wanting to leave the cold Michigan winters behind, she moved to Florida to attend law school at Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center where she received her Juris Doctor degree. Practicing law since 1997, she specializes in corporate, environmental and employment law as In-House Legal Counsel for a scrap metal company in Detroit. On the side, she dabbles in horseracing and crematory law.
Married to Jason in 2003, they have two children and reside in the metro-Detroit area, where she reads on her Kindle each night when her family falls asleep.
A recovering compulsive overeater, she wrote A Year to Remember to share her strength and hope with compulsive overeaters and food addicts everywhere. A member of Romance Writers of America, she writes both women’s fiction and paranormal romance.