Everyone’s journey to publication is different and unique. In Behind The Scenes, I interview writers who tell us how they started and got to where they are today. With the knowledge that comes from experience, they share their words of wisdom with us. If you’re a writer, I’d love to hear about your journey! Please contact me here if you’re interested in being interviewed. New interviews featured every second and last Monday of the month.
Elizabeth Varadan joins me in this edition of Behind The Scenes. Her latest novel, Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, is a middle-grade mystery; available at your favorite retailers on June 15. When Sherlock Holmes was called in to solve the case, Imogene–a budding detective in her own right–has her own ideas about solving the mystery!
1. Tell us a bit about your writing journey. How did you get started, and how did you get to where you are now?
I’ve written all my life – poems and small stories while growing up, going through college, and during my teaching career. When I took early retirement a few years ago I was able to focus on writing full time, and my work started being published – poems and stories for adult magazines and children’s magazines. A few years ago, I self-published a middle grade fantasy novel. Now, MX Publishing – a publisher specializing in Sherlock Holmes-related books – is publishing my middle grade mystery involving Sherlock Holmes, Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls. It was a long trek, but worth the journey.
2. Anything you would’ve done differently if you could do it all over again?
Not really. I loved my teaching career, and I came to that late, as I had to work my way through college. I never stopped writing, but I knew I could look forward to that once I no longer taught. I really had planned it that way, in stages, and I kept writing all those years.
3. What advice would you give to new and aspiring writers?
Follow your own dream and not someone else’s. My mother wanted me to be a musician. I love music, but the musical world wasn’t for me. And, since we were poor, I had to make my own dreams work: college, a teaching career, and then a second career in writing. It all came true. I have no complaints.
4. Is there any book you’ve written that is particularly special to you? Which one and why?
Oh, that’s hard. Every book I write is my favorite at the time, especially after I’ve polished it up and consider it ready to submit. So, right now, I have to say Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls. It was great fun to write! I love history (I was a history major in university), I love mysteries, and I especially love Sherlock Holmes. I had to do a lot of research to get the Victorian setting just right, but I loved that, so it was an enjoyable book to write.
5. Who would you say is your favorite character(s) from your books, and why? What is it about this character that makes him/her tick?
In Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, it’s Imogene, because she’s so curious and spunky and determined. But I also became attached to rusty, the mudlark who becomes her friend and fellow sleuth.
6. Tell us about your new book. What can we expect from it?
In Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, ten-year-old Imogene has harbored a secret desire to be a detective. This is unusual for a Victorian girl from a middle class family. When her mother’s pearls disappear, her parents call in Sherlock Holmes to find them, and Imogene sees her chance to learn from the great Mr. Holmes. Before long, Imogene is acting independently – too independently for her own good – and her life is in danger.
7. Are you self-pubbed or traditionally published? What made you go for this model? What advice/tips can you share with writers working towards the same goal?
Actually, I am both. I self-published an earlier fantasy, The Fourth Wish, because traditional publishers hadn’t picked it up. (It’s a rather gentle read compared to the popular high-action fantasies.) So I decided to self-publish it, and it was a great experience. It jump-started me into the world of blogs and Facebook and Twitter – the whole cyber world, although after the fact. Now I actually have a wonderful network before publication of Imogene, so I’m glad I went that route.
For my mystery, though, I wanted a traditional publisher, and I was fortunate enough to find the perfect fit in MX Publishing. Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls comes out June 15th, but I’ve already had a pre-publication signing and a school visit, with more to come after it’s released. I’m also in company with a great group of like-minded writers – Holmes fans, who write Holmesian fiction.
My tips to writers would be to try it everything, and don’t give up. Write stories and poems for magazines. It’s a great heart lift when they get accepted while you keep working on longer pieces. Keep searching for the publisher that fits your work. Belong to writing groups who are both supportive and hard-nosed – you won’t grow as a writer unless you know what isn’t working in your manuscript as well as what is.) And then – read, read, read. Write, write, write. Persist, persist, persist.
Author Bio: Elizabeth Varadan is a former elementary school teacher. She taught most elementary grades, but her favorites were the middle grades, and she now writes middle grade fiction. She and her husband live in Midtown Sacramento. Her children’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Ladybug, Friends, and Skipping Stones Magazine. Her middle grade fantasy, The Fourth Wish, was self-published in 2008. Her new middle grade mystery, Imogene an the Case of the Missing Pearls, will be released by MX Publishing June 15, 2015.