R.L. Stedman is the author of the award winning A Necklace of Souls. She has just released the sequel, A Skillful Warrior, which carries on the story of Dana and Will (read all about it here). I had a few questions for Rachel about her new book, her journey to publication and what stories she has for us next. You can read her answers below and enter the draw to win a copy of the new edition of A Necklace of Souls.
- I was very excited to hear that you had written a sequel to A Necklace of Souls! Can you tell us a little about what happens in A Skillful Warrior?
In Skillful, Dana and Will, along with N’tombe and Jed, have left the Kingdom of the Rose. They are searching for a weapon that can defeat the army of the emperor. This quest should be straightforward, but of course its not. There’s an army following them, they don’t really know what the weapon is and Dana is having really, really bad dreams. And when I say bad, I mean they’re a lot worse than the average nightmare. And then Jed gets entangled with a pirate-woman and … No. I don’t want to give too much away! But basically the story is about both Will and Dana beginning to realise what they can do, and in learning to be comfortable with their abilities. I kind of think of Skillful as Dana growing up.
- A Necklace of Souls won the Tessa Duder Award and the Best First Book Award at the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. What do awards like these mean to you as an author? Do they motivate you to keep writing?
The awards are nice, and its cool to be able to see stickers on your book that say ‘winner of so and so’ like it makes you amazing but TBH it doesn’t mean that much in terms of sales. However, I do enjoy putting ‘Award-Winning Author’ under my name! The awards don’t motivate me to continue writing, because I love writing so much that I would do it regardless. But I think the fact that I’ve won a few prizes now helps to give people confidence that my books are (hopefully) a good read.
- You have self-published A Skillful Warrior, the reprint of A Necklace of Souls and your thriller, Inner Fire. What has your journey to publication been like since your first book?
Quite tricky, would be the honest truth. A number of publishers were interested in Skillful but they all said the market for YA fiction in New Zealand is very limited, and after thinking about it for a few months, most said no. But over this time I was getting emails from readers pleading for the sequel (Skillful is dedicated to a reader from Norway!) and I felt I had to get it published just for them. So that’s why I decided to do it myself.
Inner Fire was my trial piece, I wanted to learn how to self-publish on something different to Necklace, in case it all went terribly wrong or was a total failure…In actual fact though, self-publishing (I prefer to call it “independant publishing”) has been more fun than I had thought. I’ve loved being able to chose my own cover designs – I’ve worked with two different covers for Necklace and I love both. I really enjoy the look and feel of the books; the paper is nice and thick, the layout looks professional and the binding is really solid. It’s nice to hold it in your hands!
Independent publishing offers an author a lot more freedom. When you’ve put your heart and soul into a book, it is very rewarding to be able to call all the shots on how it is presented. I like the way I can chose my own illustrations and my own font and chose the price it will retail at. I like being in control of my own timeline, too.
I don’t think it would suit everyone but I’m fortunate that it does work for me. I have a business degree and do a lot of contracting/project work in my day job – that experience has helped me a lot.
- What books would you recommend to those who have enjoyed A Necklace of Souls and A Skillful Warrior?
The Belgariad by David Eddings
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardego,
Any book by Juliet Marilliar.
The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula Le Guin.
Red Rising by Pierce Brown.
Under the Mountain by Maurice Gee.
The Merlin Chronicles by Mary Stewart.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
- You have a book coming soon for younger readers. What is it about?
It’s called The Prankster and the Ghost. It was shortlisted for the Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2012 as Practically Joking. I love it so much! It’s funny and sad and (warning) contains lots of practical jokes.
The story is about two boys (I always seem to have two protagonists, I really need to stop that), called Tayla and Jamie.
Tayla is in a car accident. In pain, he pushes himself out of his body, and begins to haunt the hospital ward. Being a ghost is kind of boring, although it does allow him to play some excellent practical jokes on the nurses. Until an inspector arrives on the ward. ‘I’m sending you to school,’ she says. ‘Because every child deserves an education, even if they’re dead.’ Tayla thinks this is stupid. What’s the point in educating dead kids? Besides, he isn’t dead. He’s just not in his body.
Meanwhile, Jamie, newly arrived from Scotland, finds no-one can understand his accent. All his practical jokes go badly wrong, and at his new school there are some ruins that he’s sure are haunted…
Prankster is set in North Otago and is about friendship and learning to live with loss. And practical jokes, of course. It’s suitable for ages 8 upwards.