Read both within the genre you write in and outside of it. The more exposure you get from other writing styles, the better you will be. Pay attention to how they structure their plots, characters, sentences, paragraphs. Everyone has a favorite author, but the more you read, the better writer you become. I have found some new favorite writers by venturing into genres that I don’t normally pick up. It also helps me see my own plots and characters in a different light by seeing how others are developed.
As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stormi Lewis.
Multi-published author and Story Sharing Coach Stormi Lewis helps people over thirty squash their excuses and overcome fears of publishing their stories. Stormi has authored Surviving the Storm, Fuel for the Storm, and the Sophie Lee Trilogy, proving time and again that you can successfully publish a book in 6 months or less, while working full time and caring for your family. After spending a lifetime with bipolar disorder and ADHD, Stormi went from choosing to break her people pleasing addiction, to hosting a podcast “Bookish Chatter” that helps keep new authors from feeling lost or alone on their journey. Find more information about Stormi at www.chasingstormi.com.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
I was the kid that was lectured by my mother to get my nose out of a book while walking so I would stop running into things. Even though I was a dancer, I didn’t need help being clumsy. By the second grade, I had read every book in the school library. Somewhere there’s even a video of some classmates and me from the 6th grade explaining how to use the card catalog to locate books in the library. Teachers would tease me about “writing novels” when I was told to write a short story for class. Books helped to save my life. When I was too manic and unable to sleep, I would hold a flashlight under the covers and pour through novel after novel. They let me escape the craziness that was going on inside of my head that I didn’t understand. Despite my love for reading, I never considered writing as a career. Nevertheless, in 2017 I wrote and published Surviving the Storm. Even as a published author, when people asked me what I did, “author” was not a title I used. When Covid-19 hit the US, I was working a customer service job in the travel industry. People naturally felt the need to take out their frustrations on me, because I was the person they got once the phone tree ended. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, but their anxiety and frustration that the pandemic was causing came oozing through the receiver daily. I needed balance to keep from drowning in the negativity I was the receiving. I ended up talking with a friend, who encouraged me to write again, because that was what brought me the most peace. At age 40, I would make my childhood dream a reality. Before I realized it, I was writing my first fiction trilogy and announcing on Instagram that my title now included “author”. I have never been happier in my life.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
For me, it was inspiring my father to publish his own stories. My parents and I are avid readers. When I started The Key, Book One of the Sophie Lee Trilogy, I was sharing my journey with him during our regular phone calls. It was heartwarming to know that we shared a common bond at this stage of our lives besides our back injuries. He was like a kid in a candy store during the entire process. I started getting texts from dad about my plot and character development. He was also the first person to edit my book. That proved to be a little difficult when I realized he would be reading an intimate love scene, but he took it in stride. He soon became my editor, and both of my parents are my creative writing team. My mother had the end of the trilogy written, and I had to remind her that we still needed to finish the first book before we wrapped up the whole trilogy. It’s really become quite the family affair. Just recently my father announced I would be publishing four books this year: my last two, and two for him. I think I have created a monster, but I am okay with it.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
Being bipolar, I struggle with self-confidence. I was born with a chemical imbalance that likes to tell me I am never good enough. So, for me, that can be the biggest daily challenge. I have to keep reminding myself that people love my stories and not to focus on any less than favorable reviews. Otherwise, I quickly get caught up in the self-talk that says I am a terrible author. On my weakest of days, I have my go-to friends that I reach out to. It’s important to surround yourself with people that love and support you on good days and bad. I didn’t have that when I published my first book. It was a very lonely journey. I wanted this go-around to be different. I found a very surprisingly supportive bookish community on Instagram. We reach out to each other when we’re struggling, and it doesn’t take long to get back on track. I also typed up a list of achievements that I’m really proud of accomplishing. I have it posted right next to where I write. When I am struggling to feel worthy or good enough, I read through that list and remind myself I have a lot to be proud of, and that usually pumps me back up. I’ve also been known to listen to my power playlist and dance around my living room. Petting a cat does wonders too.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was going back and forth on my first book about what to call my ex-husband. Surviving the Storm was about my journey to break my addiction to people pleasing and how I walked away from a toxic and abusive marriage. Someone suggested giving him an alias, which seemed like a great idea. At first I called him “Mark”, but the name never settled with me. I decided to change it and did a quick “Find and Replace” not realizing that I had also talked about my experience being a marketing student. Word was not my friend that day and made “marketing” a word not in the English dictionary, so the first copy published on Amazon was full of unintentional mistakes simply by using “Find and Replace” in Word. I have never done it since. The lesson is this: “fast and easy” may be fast, but it has a ripple effect that tends to increase my anxiety instead of relieve it.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
The second book in the Sophie Lee Trilogy, The Protector, comes out May 14th, and the third, Dead Draw will be out in November just in time for my birthday. My father’s books will come out this summer and for Christmas. Even though he wrote both books, I am proud that I have been able to help him prepare to publish and do a lot of that work for him. My dad’s books feel nearly as much mine as they are his. It is a very proud moment for me.
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
In Surviving the Storm, I share about a trip to Belize I took. I was invited by my yoga instructor at the time, but she didn’t mention that mostly couples were going on the trip. I showed up in Belize as the only single person. It was a laughable moment for sure. I ended up facing my fear of heights as I bear-crawled up the tallest Mayan Temple, and butt scooted down the stairs like a child to get to the bottom. I also faced my fear of water and went snorkeling. I even ate a termite in the middle of the jungle. Minty fresh, believe it or not. With the Sophie Lee Trilogy it’s fun to write about a character that was always in my heart as a child. I didn’t have an invisible friend, but Sophie was always who I envisioned I was when I was playing by myself. Now, I get to make her real for everyone to know. It’s a pretty cool experience.
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
Like so many ofus, I have lost some people during Covid-19. I also have a family member who is very dear to my heart and who’s time appears to be running out. In the Sophie Lee Trilogy you will see that family is an important theme, both blood and those acquired along Sophie’s journey. There is also a central theme that reminds us “we are never alone”. Even after loved ones leave us physically, they never truly leave us. In Surviving the Storm the biggest empowering lesson is: no matter the extreme personal storm you are experiencing, you were designed to survive. Nothing that happens to you defines you. It is simply a part of your journey to becoming the “Storm Chaser” you were always destined to be.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Read both within the genre you write in and outside of it. The more exposure you get from other writing styles, the better you will be. Pay attention to how they structure their plots, characters, sentences, paragraphs. Everyone has a favorite author, but the more you read, the better writer you become. I have found some new favorite writers by venturing into genres that I don’t normally pick up. It also helps me see my own plots and characters in a different light by seeing how others are developed.
- Set a schedule that works best for you. Some people feel more accomplished if they set a goal of page numbers or word count per day. I do not do well with that. Not only do I feel like more of a failure if I don’t accomplish what I set out to do, but my writing comes off as forced and terrible. It ends up getting rewritten, which defeats the purpose for me. I set aside a certain time frame to write to take off the pressure of hitting a certain quota. That way whatever I do accomplish is a win for me. I tend to over write during that time period, and I tend to come up with more epic writing that way as well. My advice is, don’t try to set a writing schedule that works for others. Figure out what helps you do your best writing, and go with that.
- Share your journey. I prefer Instagram over Facebook because there is a surprisingly supportive writing and reading community on that platform. I always post when I am starting a new journey. My goal is to not only get other people excited but to also hold myself accountable. I admit when I am struggling, and I find that I am usually flooded with responses that help me keep going. I celebrate my wins. No matter how big or how small. This is two-fold. Not only will you find that you have a world-wide cheerleading section out there for you, but it also helps readers connect with you more. No one wants to buy a book from someone who is always shoving it down their throat. Don’t be the over-zealous sales guy of the bookish world. When your followers feel like they are a part of your journey, they are more motivated to purchase the final product.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. No one is perfect at everything. I can’t even make stick people look good. Therefore, I got help to get an epic cover to match my epic story. When I get stuck in the plot, I ask my followers for ideas. The answers are always amazing, and they usually have ideas that I didn’t consider. I reach out to other author friends when I’m going through a rough patch. I ask my parents to help me get out of plot ditches I find myself in when I am overthinking. It doesn’t mean you have to accept everything you’re given. However, it might get you thinking in a direction that is even better than when you started.
- Don’t let feedback define who you are. It is statistically impossible to write a book that every person on this planet will love on a five-star level. If a book has nothing but five-stars, they’re mostly likely buying the reviews. However, not every low-starred review means you’re a terrible author. The Sophie Lee Trilogy scores higher with thirty and over. That’s a good thing, because that is my target market. People under thirty tend to be less impressed. I can usually tell by the review which age group they fall into. Does that mean I am a terrible author? Not at all. It means that the people I write for enjoy it, which is the whole point. I can’t control everyone that picks it up or everyone that leaves a review. I can make sure that I am writing the best story that I can for my target market, and based on the reviews, I am accomplishing just that.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
I put myself in what I like to refer to as “my personal bubble”. When I am writing my trilogy, I spend a lot of time watching old 80s and 90s movies and tv shows and listening to my favorite 60s or 80s pop music playlists. Those are the things I grew up with, and they remind me of where Sophie originally came from. I get lost in the story, and I let it write itself. I don’t give myself restrictions. I don’t cater to what others might want. I shut the world out, and I write a story that I’m proud of and love to my very core. I limit my time on social media, and I shut everything off at 6:30pm to allow myself to wind down. To do my best writing, I need to be in the best headspace. This allows my story to be unique and not forced. The worst part of writing for me is when I write the most epic scene, and no one wants to hear it. They want to wait and be surprised when the book is published.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
I really try to read all sorts of books. For the Sophie Lee Trilogy I got inspiration from one of my favorite childhood series, Anne of Green Gables. I remember thinking it was so cool that she just punched the little boy in the face for making fun of her red hair. Being a ginger trailer park girl myself, Anne was my hero. Sophie has a lot of Anne’s “sass” as my Nana would say. The spirit of someone who stands up for themselves and others is always a character I am drawn to and inspired by.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
For someone that suffers from suicidal thoughts that aren’t my own doing, I think it’s important that we all share our stories as much as possible. Books kept me going before I ever knew what was “wrong with me” and helped me escape the bullying that took place because I was “different”. Our stories change lives, fiction and nonfiction. It’s my goal to help as many people share their stories as possible. Some kid might be struggling and just hasn’t found their author voice yet, because they’re too afraid to share their story.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I hang out mostly on Instagram under TheStorySharingGuru. I am on Twitter @chasingstormi1 and Facebook under chasingstormi.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!