I want to do a little sumthin-sumthin different this week. I love doing interviews of people, but this time it’s extra special (to me). I will be interviewing a published author…and one from Minnesota to boot! Deanna Sletten is an author, blogger, and Minnesota Mom. I’ve followed her blog for years and was thrilled when she announced she had published a book just in time for the holiday season. I could gush all day about Deanna, but I’ll let her do the talking
ME: First things first, tell us about your blog.
Deanna: I actually have two blogs: my writer’s blog Write Moms and my personal blog which I have recently started. In early 2009 when I started freelance writing full time, I started Write Moms to share my experiences as a freelance writer as well as information to help other mothers fulfill their dream of writing, and working, from home. It didn’t take long for me to realize that there was a huge demand from mothers (and fathers) for information about writing sites, working at home and earning money through writing. I really enjoyed sharing information with other writers as well as learning from them.
In the past couple of months, however, I have moved my focus away from freelance writing (although I do still write for several sites) and moved back toward my first love – novel writing. This is why I decided it was time to have a blog under my own name so I’d have a place to promote my books and share information with others about the self-publishing process. You will see me on my own blog more going forward and less on Write Moms, but much of the information on Write Moms will still be relevant to many beginning writers, even if it is 2-3 years old.
ME: Along the lines of “what came first, the chicken or the egg” which was first for you? Book writing or blogging?
Deanna: Definitely novel writing. Long before everyone had a personal computer in their homes or even knew what blogging was, I was writing books and trying to find a traditional publisher for them. I wrote one book and spent a year sending it out to agents and publishers, only to receive a luke-warm reception and never an offer. Finally, I put it away and forgot about it. Not long after that, I began writing two move novels, Outlaw Heroes being one of them. Again, I spent months trying to find a publisher but with no luck. An opportunity arose to self-publish Outlaw Heroes through Xlibris, a print-on-demand publisher at no cost to me. I did that with Outlaw Heroes and my other book, spent months promoting them as best I could and then basically forgot about them.
Recently, with the ebook trend rapidly growing, I decided to republish Outlaw Heroes as an ebook and that is how I ended up back into writing novels again. It is obvious that the ebook is not a passing phase and self-publishing has really taken off as an acceptable form for new writers. I’m excited that I am able to step back into writing books and plan on self-publishing several over the next few years.
ME: I know you live in Bemidji, but tell me a little about your personal life (family, kids, pets, hobbies).
Deanna: My husband and I have been married for – well let’s just say forever. We have two grown children, a son, Michael and daughter, Deborah, and both still live in our town so we are lucky we get to see them often. Our son is getting married next July and our daughter is engaged, so our family is expanding. Unlike many mothers whose children have moved out, I am not suffering from empty-nest syndrome – actually I am enjoying all the time I have for writing. I enjoyed my children while they were at home and now I enjoy having time to myself.
Our house, though, is never without drama. With 5 cats (3 rescued from the side of a road), a parrot and my best friend – a beautiful Australian Shepherd dog – it is never quiet around here. Summer and fall are my favorite seasons here in Minnesota because we spend time on the lake in our boat and I walk the local trails with my Aussie.
ME: I know of so many people who could/should be writers, but really struggle taking that first step. What advice would you give to a budding writer?
Deanna: If you really want to be a writer and have a good idea for a novel, don’t let the idea of writing an entire book stop you. Just start writing – you can always go back and make changes as many times as you want. I usually start a book with an idea, then write notes on characters such as their names, physical description, employment and their background. I also research any locations I am going to use if they are real towns or cities. After that, I just write and add characters where needed.
The same could be said for trying your hand at article writing. Research your idea and write about it. Whether you are writing an article or full-length novel, do your homework and research how to properly format your pages and what the acceptable fonts are, how to write dialogue, etc. No matter how good your book or article is – no one will even want to look at it if it isn’t formatted properly. I read a few books on writing before I started, but you can find that information online as well.
Don’t wait for someday – or else you will never do it. If you truly want to be a writer, you should learn what you need to know and start writing.
ME: What gave you the idea for Outlaw Heroes?
Deanna: I love history and really enjoy the old west and the characters that were famous then. I became especially interested in the lives of Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and Etta Place. Yes, one of my favorite movies is Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, but my interest went beyond the Hollywood’s version – I read everything I could get my hands on about the real outlaws and how they lived.
The idea to write a story where a young boy goes back in time to join the outlaws on their adventures came to me when my son and daughter were younger and they and the neighborhood kids were running around our yard in western clothes playing cowboys. I thought it would be fun to add a young boy into the story of Butch and Sundance and see where it would lead.
The real life Butch and Sundance were intelligent, well-read and fun-loving – they just also happened to rob trains and banks. They were not killers, in fact there has never been any proof that either of them ever shot or killed anyone. So I put them together with 12-year old Will Long and developed a story from there. Of course, it couldn’t be a story that glorified stealing, so the book is really about Will learning some life lessons while with the outlaws.
Why is the book named Outlaw Heroes? After all, outlaws can’t be heroes, right? I named it that because in the end, the outlaws were heroes to Will because it was through them that he learned that being on the wrong side of the law is not a way of life he should choose.
ME: Wow. That was the motherload of valuable information. When people ask me how to get started blogging or writing, I say “just do it.” It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect. Just WRITE. Where do you see yourself in 5 years, Deanna?
Deanna: Well, I would love to say that I’ll be an international best-selling novelist five years from now but that probably isn’t realistic. What I hope is that I am still writing books and self-publishing them and I will have found an audience who enjoys and appreciates them.
Honestly, the whole reason I love writing novels is to create and tell a story – I’d write them even if no one ever reads them, but it would be more fun if the books were read and enjoyed.
ME: Name one thing on your Bucket List.
Deanna: Okay – here goes the western theme again. I’d love to travel down the entire outlaw trail starting up in Montana and ending in Texas and visit all the towns and sites where Butch and Sundance went. While on this trip, I would also like to ride into the famed outlaw hideout, ‘Hole-in-the-Wall’, on horseback just as the outlaws did over 100 years ago.
We have traveled around the country quite a bit and have seen some of these areas, but if would be fun to make a whole vacation out of it just once.
ME: What are you proudest of?
Deanna: This is easy – my children They are both intelligent, caring people who are also creative and hard working. We never really had any trouble with either of them when they were growing up, not even during the teen years. People always think I’m lying when I say that, but it’s true. And now we really enjoy spending time with them. Although I’ve had a few accomplishments in my life – my children are my greatest accomplishment.
ME: Good answer Share if you dare, one of your most embarrassing moments.
Deanna: The only incident I can think of is the time I asked a woman I worked with if she was pregnant – and she wasn’t. I thought for sure I was safe because she was getting larger over a short period of time, but I was wrong. There really is never anything you can say after that because it all just comes out wrong. After that, I learned never to ask anyone if they are pregnant even if it is obvious!
ME: Ha! I think we’ve all been busted on that one at one time. It’s a lesson you learn the first time! How can readers find you, Deanna?
Deanna: Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000427666748
Outlaw Heroes is available as an ebook at Xlibris too – but it is expensive so I urge anyone who wants it in ebook form to go to Smashwords at this link: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/110868