Idaho-based Devri Walls never intended to be an author but life had other plans. Now with six books published and a new fantasy series in the works, we catch up with her to talk inspiration, the publishing rollercoaster and connecting with other authors.
Please give us a brief overview of yourself and your work.
Fantasy was always my drug of choice growing up. A total escape from day-to-day life that left me hooked and I love that I can offer that same escape to my readers.
I have six books out to date. A four book series starts with book one, Wings of Arian. A stand alone novel titled The Wizard’s Heir. And I am so excited about book one in my newest series Venators: Magic Unleashed
What made you want to be a writer?
I’m actually a theatre major and a singer. But once I had kids, doing those things was a lot harder. I worked during the day and couldn’t justify leaving my babies at night as well to follow those particular passions.
This decision ripped my heart out. Literally. I was a mess for a few years—crying, lot’s of snot, it wasn’t pretty guys! So I prayed and I pleaded for SOMETHING I could do to fill this gaping hole inside.
Fast forward five years. I was teaching preschool and borrowing books from one of the mothers. She was so blown away by how fast I was reading that she blurted out one day, “You should write a book!” I stared for a second, blinked, and thought, that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard! This moment will do down in history as one of the few times I didn’t say something that required me to insert my foot into my mouth. I politely laughed and said, “Yeah, maybe.”
But after that, multiple times a day, every where I went, a little voice whispered in my head, “You should write a book.” It was crazy, insane, totally NUTS! I had never written anything before. I couldn’t write! But the voice would not stop. I literally opened up my laptop one day out of sheer frustration and thinking, oh my gosh, FINE, I’ll write a book! And what came out of that was Wings of Arian.
Turns out I could write and I loved it! Writing filled my soul more efficiently and more completely than any play I ever performed. Now writing is so much a part of me I can’t imagine not doing it.
What inspires you to write?
Everything! People, music, movies, scenery, books. Everything.
Is there any particular incident that has happened along your writing journey that you’d like to share?
This has been a journey I was totally unprepared for as I didn’t set out to be a writer. I didn’t understand in those early years how much WORK went into writing a book. And then, after you cry, sweat and bleed onto those pages you release it into a terribly subjective world where you give people permission to hate it.
The first bad review I received gutted me. I had worked on that book for four years! I didn’t know what to do. Finally, out of desperation to calm my frazzled self I got on Amazon and pulled up Harry Potter. I clicked on the one-star reviews, and I sat there, and I read them ALL. That was a turning point for me. I realized it doesn’t matter how brilliant a book I write, it doesn’t matter if I wrote a Pulitzer winner, someone will hate it. In fact, lots of someones will hate it. I had to learn to let go of some of my need for affirmation, put my head down and do my work.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Finish the book. Always my first piece of advice. It sounds simple but that’s where a lot of would-be authors get stuck. They hit the really hard part of writing and assume this means the story sucks and they should shelf it. That’s NOT what it means. It means writing is hard and you just hit the hard part. Congratulations. If you want to be a writer you’ve got to push through (even if the book actually is horrible) and finish it. THEN you can edit. It’s in the edits that the mess of words on the page and that crazy story arc that somehow ended up flat-lining becomes a novel someone wants to read. But you can’t edit until you finish the book.
Any advice for approaching publishers?
Know what the publisher is looking for. Period. Do your research, attend writer’s conferences, listen to publishers talk about their likes and dislikes, read their submissions pages and follow them to the letter. And again, realize that just because they say no it doesn’t mean you suck.
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
Sometimes poorly, sometimes really well. Lol! I think rejection always stings, even if you’re ready for it. My initial reaction is always shame—tight stomach, ears ringing, etc. To combat this I make myself take a step back, clear my head and think ok, is there anything I can learn from this? Were valid points made that I need to implement? How can I do better next time? And then I remember two things. One, it doesn’t matter how good I get, there is always room for improvement. And two, there will always be someone who thinks I suck. That’s reality.
How do you deal with isolation as a writer?
Oh man. That’s tricky. I always think I’m doing totally fine with the isolation, and the fact that I’m struggling with this or that has nothing to do with feeling so alone. Then I go to a conference with other writers, or talk with other writers online, and find myself totally revitalized! Getting together a tribe you can reach out to is really helpful.
What do you think is the biggest marketing challenge for new authors?
The fact that everything changes constantly! What was working, doesn’t work now. Or something is working and then suddenly stops. You have to be innovative and different. I got very frustrated with the whole process a while back and backed off, and man, I am paying the price. My advice is, just keep plugging along, keep trying. Also, get feedback to make sure what you’re trying to market is marketable. For example, I just had to re-cover Venators. A dear friend of mine broke the news (that deep down I knew, but didn’t want to hear) that the old cover wasn’t working. Financially it hurt, but it had to be done.
What methods of book marketing do you find the most effective?
*dies of laughter* Seriously, everything is constantly changing. I think the one thing that doesn’t change is connecting with your readers. Word of mouth is still the best marketing. If your readers like what you do and feel connected to you as a person, they will tell everyone they know to read your books. Facebook ads seem to be fairly effective right now, just not very cheap to start.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with aspiring writers?
The best advice I ever read was from CInda Williams Chima. The first time I read it I thought it was the worst advice EVER! Of course, I read it before publishing my first book. Her advice on publishing was, Don’t. Unless you have to. Then do it.
I was like WHAAAATTTT? What kind of messed up advice is that!? But then I got my first book out, and the next and the next and I was like, “aahhhhhhh, I see.” You can be a writer without being published. Is writing cathartic for you, relaxing, your stress relief? That’s fantastic! Keep writing. Enjoy it. Have fun. Share it with your friends and family. Because publishing is hard, and it’s painful and it’s a rollercoaster of ups and downs. It’s fluctuating sales, loads of time on social media, marketing both with your time and finances. It’s query letters and cover design, it’s contracts and bad reviews. It’s opening your life to the outside world, it’s sharing part of your soul to strangers.
It’s something I can’t stop doing.
I don’t know why, but I can’t stop. So I will continue plugging along. But if you don’t have to publish, don’t. If you do? Hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy, yet strangely rewarding ride.
Find out more about Devri’s work via her website, where you’ll also find links to her social media accounts, be able to purchase her books (ebook and print versions) and enter fantastic giveaways.