A chat with author Karyn Sepulveda

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Ideas for books can come at any moment, and for author Karyn Sepulveda, hers happened in one of the most common places. But more on that in a moment. We’re talking about the newly released Young Adult fantasy novel, Choosing Xaverique and we’re talking with Karyn.

Hi Karyn, so what’s this book all about?

Choosing Xaverique is a Young Adult Urban Fantasy about a regular 15 year old, Gabby, who finds out she is not human when she dies and comes back to life. Gabby discovers that, like her father and grandmother, she belongs to a secret species which has evolved from humans; ‘Xaveriques’. As she struggles with the decision to embrace her powers before her 16th birthday or lose them forever, she meets Noah and falls in love. However, her love for him will be tested when she finds out he too has terrible secrets. Noah and Gabby are drawn into a battle of good against evil – forced to choose their own destinies.”

So the usual teenage angst then? Haha, no but seriously, that’s quite an “out there” plot. How did you come up with it? Was there a lightbulb moment?

“I was in the shower one evening six years ago when a thought popped into my mind – a girl who discovers she has powers but must decide whether she will embrace them before her 16th birthday. I rushed out of the shower, barely dried myself and wrote down as much as I could about the idea in my journal. I wrote the first draft of my book within a month, so it certainly started out as a lightbulb moment.”

They do say that the shower is a common idea catalyst (we’re having them installed here at our desks). So Karyn, when did you know that you wanted to be a writer? And what steps did you take to pursue that goal?

“I was an actor in a play about 12 years ago and helped the writer change some of her scenes. I enjoyed it so much, I thought I would try and write a play myself. I had a go at turning one of my plays into a children’s book, but knew I hadn’t done a very good job. So I enrolled in the Australian Writers’ Centre’s short course Writing Books for Children and Young Adults, to get some tips and ideas.”

Good course that one. Highly recommend it. Ahem, but do go on, you were saying?

“Well, I realised that I loved writing more than I could imagine. I loved every task we were set, sharing my writing with classmates and receiving feedback from the course instructor. Once the course finished I decided writing books was what I wanted to do as a career, so I applied to complete a Masters in Creative Writing at Macquarie University. That is when my journey of writing Choosing Xaverique began.”

Wow, so as it turned out, acting was just a stage you were going through! Boom-tish… (Pause for laughter.) So let’s take a look at your typical writing day. Do you have a set routine?

“When I’m working on a draft, I write at all hours of the night, because that’s when I seem to have my best ideas.“

And in the shower…

“But when I’m editing my work (and I need to push myself) I follow more of a routine. I drop my children at school, exercise, come home and make myself a strong coffee and get stuck into it for a good four hours. I never turn the TV on or look at social media during that time. If I need a little break, I play with my puppy outside for a few minutes, make something to eat, or just have a little stretch.”

Some people log out for a few minutes. You dog out. We like it! So that’s very disciplined – a good thing to be if you are self publishing. Tell us why you chose to do that.

“I decided to self-publish because I knew I had the support I needed to do it successfully. I had heard fantastic things about the publishing company Vivid (which they lived up to!). My good friend is a graphic designer and created the cover of my dreams for me and my husband is a marketing director so I have someone very experienced to brainstorm with. But the main reason is because I believe in my book and myself.”

Sounds like a great support network. So what strategies do you have in place to promote and market this book?

“Although this was daunting at first, it has been a lot of fun! I was a beginner at social media so I acquired the help of an amazing boutique company ‘Social Me Up Now’. They helped me plan and implement a social media campaign, using Instagram, Facebook and my own website and blog. I also hired a fantastic publicist, Emma Noble of Noble Words, who has helped me to source reviews, interviews and guest blogs. I believe that successful self-publishing is so achievable today because of social media – with some research and hard work, you can directly reach your target audience.”

Successful Self Publishing – that’s actually one of our courses here at AWC. And as for the course you did back in the day, how did it help you?

“The course helped me to realise how much I enjoyed writing. It taught me how to move from a first draft to editing. It also introduced me to the brilliance of sharing my work with others and using their constructive feedback to improve my own writing.”

Nice. So, what's next for you? And do you have advice for aspiring writers?

“I’m working on the sequel to Choosing Xaverique, which is at a rough draft stage and slated for publication later this year. My advice to aspiring writers is to believe in yourself and your writing. Take all the feedback you can and use it to improve your work. And most importantly – your first draft is just a work in progress. Take time and care to edit and develop your draft into a book readers will love.”

Sensible words there, thanks Karyn!

Choosing Xaverique (Vivid Publishing, $18.95) is available now. And you can check out Karyn’s website here.

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