Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Writer Wednesday: Riding the Roller Coaster with Heather Sunseri

Today I welcome the lovely Heather Sunseri to Writer Wednesday. Heather is smart, funny and a damned good writer. I hope you enjoy her post as much as I did. And I look forward to reading her books, Mindspeak and her new release, Mindsiege. Why not pick up a copy for yourself? Links are below.

Heather Sunseri,
Author of Mindsiege & Mindspeak

Hi, I’m Heather Sunseri, and I’m a recovering rule-follower-aholic.

Somewhere along the path to becoming a writer, someone insisted that I had to follow a certain set of rules if I had any hope in succeeding as a novelist.

I was told that I had to write 1000 words each and every day; I had to be a consistent blogger and blog often; I couldn’t introduce more than two characters in the first scene of any novel; it was imperative that I join a critique group; I would never make money with writing; traditional publishing was the only way to give my writing any merit; and the fact that I don’t like chocolate is the main reason I would never succeed as a novelist.

I kid you not. (Although someone may or may not have been joking about the chocolate. I’m not sure.) All of the above and many more absurd statements have been said to me on the bumpy road I’ve traveled to become a published writer. I’m sure you’ve had your own list of demands put upon you as you strive to reach a goal, whether it be in the realm of writing or something else entirely.

I realized one lovely September day more than two years ago as I sat in front of an agent (who I will not name) at the ACFW conference that I was done. D-O-N-E. I had hit my rock bottom of following all the rules.

It truly wasn’t that I didn’t respect the professionals that I had paid hefty conference fees to hear. The problem? The publishing world had hit a tough time. Really, the entire U.S. economy had hit a tough time. Agents were not accepting very many new authors. Publishers were not making deals. The outlook for aspiring writers was bleak. And with the odds further stacked against writers, I believe agents and publishers were frustrated and had nothing positive to offer many writers. And I got a full dose of this frustration when an agent read one page of my manuscript, looked up at me and said, “Your writing is good, but this will never sell. You’ve introduced like four characters on the first page.” And he went on to say other discouraging, you-didn’t-follow-the-rules-type statements.

This agent meeting came at the end of a long few years of blogging, writing according to what publishers and agents were “looking for,” trying to connect with certain authors and publishing professionals the way I read I was supposed to, and following many other rules. This meeting was my rock bottom, and I knew I had a choice to make.

I could stay the course, or change with an industry that was rapidly transforming, and is still racing at the speed of light to an unknown destination.

I had someone tell me not that long ago, “I feel like I missed the boat to self-publish.” My response? “It’s not a boat. It’s a never-ending roller coaster. You just have jump on while it’s on the uphill and enjoy the ride after it hits one of its peaks and then prepare for the next peak and hang on when it goes upside down.”

Here’s another thing. It’s no longer a debate about whether to self-publish or query agents and traditional publishers. For me, it never was. For me, it was a decision to make career choices that were best for me and what I wanted to write. And not be afraid to make a different choice the next time.

After I left that conference, I reassessed my writing career and aspirations, and realized I had been following all the wrong rules and advice, and for all the wrong reasons. My goal had been to win some publishing game — follow someone else’s arbitrary rules, play a game others had made up, and win some prize that no one could even define for me. A prize I wasn’t even sure I wanted anymore.

That was when it all changed for me. I began listening to my own voice. I thought about the books I enjoyed reading. I envisioned a certain audience that might enjoy my voice. And then I wrote the book that I wanted to write with no consideration as to whether agents or publishers would be interested. I stopped listening to all the publishing rules and wrote to entertain.

Mindsiege, by Heather Sunseri
I’m not sure I’ve gotten it completely right yet, or if I ever will. But I know that I’m enjoying the ride. And I also know now why following the rules was so frustrating for me once upon a time. While I was busy following the rules, the game was changing. And that’s the decision we writers face every day: Are we going to play the game created by others yesterday, or are we going create a new game based on the rules that continuously evolve?

Heather Sunseri was raised on a tiny farm in one of the smallest towns in thoroughbred horse country near Lexington, Kentucky. After high school, she attended Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, and later graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in accounting. Always torn between a passion for fantasy and a mind for the rational, it only made sense to combine her career in accounting with a novel-writing dream.

You can connect with Heather in the following places:

Sign up for her newsletter at

Heather’s latest release, Mindsiege, the sequel to Mindspeak, is available now. You can read blurbs about either and find out where the books are available on her website: The Mindsiege page will be constantly updated as Mindsiege goes live on each of the bookseller sites.

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