Today, I have a very lovely guest joining me on the blog! I met Stephanie through blogging, and I recently read some of her YA historical fiction book, The Uncertainty of Fire. Stephanie is an indie author who publishes through Kindle Vella. I wasn’t familiar with this type of publishing, and it was so interesting to learn how it works, as well as chat with Stephanie about writing!
Chicago, 1871. A public blunder potentially ruins sixteen-year-old Whimsy Greathart’s chances for a future courtship. Agreeing to her parent’s matchmaking plan might be the only way to pursue what she really wants–exposing Chicago’s child labor practices. But when she leads her family into danger on the night of the Great Fire, her focus shifts to survival. She overcomes hardship with the help of a shy preacher’s son and a big-dreaming newsboy, but which young man will hold a home for her heart?
VH: Hi, Stephanie, and welcome to the blog! I’m to chat with you today. A big congratulations on the release of The Uncertainty of Fire! Tell me a little bit about your writing journey. When did you first start writing?
SD: Thank you so much for the invitation to your blog. I’ve always had a very active imagination. I used to even tell myself stories in my bedroom when I was just a preschooler. So as soon as I was able to get a pencil in my hand to write things down, stories would pour out. In second grade I wrote a pages-long fantastical tale with leprechauns and giants and fairies. My teacher enjoyed it so much that she had me read it in front of our class and then to the other second grade classes in our school.
VH: What’s the hardest part about writing for you?
SD: Getting the story down initially. I don’t like drafting. I like pretty writing and my first drafts are awful. I’m kind of in a rut right now. I’m happy with my plot and characters but some of them keep derailing me. Lots of revisions to do on this next story. I’m happiest editing, putting the polish and glitter on it.
VH: What authors have deeply influenced your writing?
SD: I think I’d have to say the classic writers—the Brontës, Daphne du Maurier, L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott. Though I hadn’t ever read a first-person present point of view until I’d read Stephanie Morrill’s The Lost Girl of Astor Street, and that was a lightbulb moment for my story.
VH: What’s one of your best pieces of advice for an aspiring author?
SD: Keep focused on God’s purpose for your writing, know who your target market is (this will help you when you get confusing feedback) and then find a writing group and critique partners, preferably a few that have a little more experience than you. Oh, and something I wished someone had told me years ago—finish something. Avoid shiny thing syndrome. Even if finishing means a short story or novella.
VH: What’s your favorite type of character to write?
SD: I always like to do the unexpected. I hope that’s what people find when they read The Uncertainty of Fire. That no one character behaves exactly the way they think they’re going to. I enjoy using all the personality tests and character evaluations out there, but in the end, none of us fits in a box. And while I don’t try to imbue my characters with anything that would completely blindside readers, I try to subtly show a dimensionality to them. Because that’s real life.
VH: At what point did you realize you wanted to publish?
SD: This could be a long story, but I’ll try to condense. Several years ago, I’d seen a little leaflet about the Children’s Institute of Literature online course. I’d always loved writing and had always dreamed of writing a picture book, but never really considered publication. I applied and was accepted. After studying the business side of writing through that course, I knew I wanted to keep at it. But I had only attempted short pieces. I never thought I could write a full-length novel.
VH: Before I met you, I don’t think I’d ever heard of Kindle Vella. It sounds like such an interesting concept and method of publishing. Could you explain a little bit about it, and why did you decide to publish with it? What are the positives and possible negatives of publishing that way?
SD: My decision to publish for Vella came because the story I had written is a long one. After I’d felt God-led to go indie, the announcement for Vella had released and it was a very interesting concept for me. I knew a lot of young people read on Wattpad, and I’d even considered publishing there in the past. And because it’s a long story, I thought releasing in weekly episodes might be a good way to entice readers who wouldn’t want to sit and read an entire book, especially one as long as this one.
So for those unfamiliar, Kindle Vella allows authors to release never-before-published (and I mean not even on a blog) stories as episodes. Authors can choose how often they want to release. And some have even published their completed stories all at once. That can be difficult because readers will not get notifications for new episodes. Amazon pays royalties based on tokens spent on each story. But they also place a high emphasis on visibility. The 250 top favorites is a big motivator for most authors. And those are decided by readers based on voting for the story they like most each week, reads, likes on episodes, and number of followers.
The positives of Vella are that if a story does well, Amazon pays very nice bonuses beside royalties. The negatives are that they still have some improvements to make. I’d love to see a Christian genre, but for now I can only tag my story as Christian. The notifications are unreliable, so unlike a physical copy of a book or ebook, a story can easily be forgotten. So I’ve felt a little like a promo/marketing machine, which is not an aspect I really care for. Another positive are the other authors I’ve met there. It’s a very particular kind of publishing, and we’ve helped cheer for each other when our stories have reached some milestone and offer encouragement when our story appears to be sinking into the abyss of obscurity.
VH: Tell me a little bit about The Uncertainty of Fire.
SD: This story follows sixteen-year-old Whimsy Greathart, a privileged teen with a heart to expose Chicago’s child labor practices. The story starts with a meeting with an unknown suitor that her father has approved. But the meeting doesn’t go as expected, and when she allows her tender heart to lead her, she makes a choice that endangers her family on the night of Chicago’s great fire. In the aftermath, she finds temporary shelter with a preacher’s family and forms a tentative friendship with the preacher’s son. But then she is forced into the very labor system she’d wished to fight against and relies on the help of a charming newsboy to help her navigate the rough neighborhood she now finds herself in. As her circumstances continue to change, her faith is renewed, her heart is swayed, and her commitments are tested.
VH: What made you want to write YA books?
SD: When I first started this story, I had no idea that YA historicals weren’t really a thing anymore. I wasn’t setting out to fill a void—I was just ignorant. I loved reading historical fiction as a teen, and love reading it now, so it came naturally to me to want to write that genre. As for YA, I remember as a young adult being both terrified and energized about the future. What would I do as a career? Would I marry and have a family? How would I make a mark in the world? I don’t think that has changed for young people of any era. So I love being able to tackle those issues. I also prefer writing in first person point of view. It really helps me get into the head of the character, and that seems to be less acceptable for the adult market.
VH: What made you choose the setting for this book (1870s Chicago)?
SD: The setting came as a product of having lived in Chicago for 18 years. When I first started developing this story, I knew I needed a big event to impact Whimsy’s life and really separate her from all she had ever known. Since I lived in Chicago and had hands-on research at my fingertips, it seemed like the perfect choice.
VH: What do you hope readers will take away from your writing?
SD: I hope they will always see the hand of God in every circumstance. Our positions and material possessions may change, but God never does. He sustains us in the hardest times, and we can always rely on Him and trust His heart, because as Jeremiah says, our hearts are deceitful.
VH: What do your upcoming projects look like?
SD: Whimsy’s story was the first of this series which I’ve entitled The Uncertain Riches series. Next up is the second story featuring secondary characters from The Uncertainty of Fire. I don’t want to say a ton about them at this time to prevent spoilers. Though Whimsy isn’t the main character, events from her story influence this one, so it is best read afterward. And then cousin Bessie will be a secondary character in the third story, which is about the young heiress she works for. I only have that one loosely plotted. I may have a couple of spin offs from these but have not decided yet.
About the Author
Stephanie Daniels is a Christian wife and mother who lives in the present but dreams in the past. Her episodic story, The Uncertainty of Fire, is available exclusively on Amazon’s Kindle Vella.
In between chauffering her sons to baseball practices, music lessons, and whatever else has caught their interest at the moment, supporting her very understanding lives-with-a-writer husband, substitute teaching in Sunday school, singing in the church choir, and attending all of the birthdays, sports events, concerts of not only her sons, but her large extended family, she slips away and attempts to bring past worlds to life.
She writes historical fiction with strong faith themes and often romance, targeted for teens/young adults.
She loves clean period dramas, touring historical sites, drinking a large cup of coffee in the morning, and delving into research. And she is always up for a conversation about books and writing.