Wendy: Heather can you give my readers your background?
Heather: I was born and raised in a small prairie town in Saskatchewan, Canada where I continue to live with my husband, Terry. We have three sons, all grown, and three darling grandchildren. Armed with a Bachelor of Education and a Master’s in Science in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, I spent thirty years in a variety of educational roles: elementary school teacher, high school English teacher, Principal and Learning Consultant. I retired from my thirty-year teaching career in 2018. One of the great things about being a teacher is having the opportunity to get back in the classroom with author visits.
Wendy: What is the title of your book?
Heather: At present I have three books in print. They belong to the Breaking the Rules Series: See Me, Hear Me, Watch Me
Wendy: How about the Genre?
Heather: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Wendy: Heather can you share with my reader what your series is about?
Heather: The Breaking the Rules is a three-book series addressing the issues facing many middle-graders: identity, belonging and friendship with the message you’re not alone and you’re going to be okay.
Seventh grade is going to be like all the others for shy, introverted Hannah Williams. Convinced she’s an outsider, Hannah creates rules to protect her from the bullies in her life. If she follows her rules, no one will know she even exists and that’s how she likes it. But all her plans go up in smoke when Chip Cavanaugh, the new boy at school, sits behind her in math class. Convinced they have a lot in common, Chip sets out be Hannah’s one friend, while Hannah wishes he’d just leave her alone. Chip wins Hannah over with his funny, outgoing ways and his conviction to stand up for what’s right.
The two face numerous obstacles over the series: school bullies, and indifferent school principal and a calculating, political candidate. Hannah goes from being shy, introverted wallflower, to an empowered, compassionate member of her community. Through her friendship with Chip, Hannah learns to stand up for her friends and those less fortunate. She finds her voice, speaks her truth and tells her story. In the process, she repairs the relationship with her father and discovers what true friendship means.
Wendy: When did you start thinking about becoming an author? Was there an event or “awesome” moment that precipitated your desire for a change or had this been brewing for a while?
Heather: The idea of becoming an author started about fifteen years ago, from a discussion with colleagues about the lack to books we needed to teach students in the best way possible. We jokingly thought it would be a great retirement project. As my retirement started to loom closer and I started to think about what I wanted to do in the next chapter of my life, the idea started to take root. I wrote and published my first novel, See Me in 2016 and completed the second, Hear Me, just before I retired.
The inspiration for this series came from my own personal experiences in middle school. Feeling like I didn’t belong, I turned to books as a form of escape and comfort. I was, and still am, fascinated by people’s stories. They were my safe place. Realizing how powerful books were in my life and how they can change our perspectives and open us up to the experiences of others, I actively set out to fulfill the dream of becoming a writer as I prepared for retirement.
It’s my goal that readers see themselves in my stories, or those of their friends and have compassion and empathy.
Wendy: How hard was it to make the decision to write your book/s? How did you get started?
Heather: Initially, I wanted to write picture books because that was what I was most familiar with, but quickly realized I was going to need an illustrator and without the skill to do it myself or the knowledge of how to even find one, I decided to write a middle grade chapter book—no illustrator needed!! With that problem out of the way, I simply started writing armed only with my own knowledge of story gleaned from years of being an avid reader. I’d written about 20,000 words when I saw an advertisement for Self-Publishing School and signed up. This, for me, was the most critical move I made. The one-on-one coaching calls strengthened my story—in fact, it took it from one book to a three-book series! It provided me with a step-by-step process to find a cover designer, edit, and get my book on Amazon. Finally, and most importantly, it came with a community of like-minded people who were on the journey I was on—it is truly invaluable.
Wendy: How supportive were your family and friends?
Heather: I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without the support of my husband. Without complaint he makes meals, pitches in on house work and laundry. He also never bats an eye when I purchase another course! My kids are also supportive.
I have a massively supportive friend group who beta read, leave reviews, buy and sell my books and share on social media. If becoming an author has taught me one thing, it’s what a great group I people I’m lucky to have in my life. It is truly humbling!
Wendy: What challenges did you or are you encountering?
Heather: One of the things I have to work on is adding more description to my stories. I tend to write very lean in my rough draft because I want to get the plot on the page first. This means that revisions and edits require me to add more description.
Wendy: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Heather: I recently listened to an interview with Jeff Leisawitz, where he talked about creativity as being a gift with three parts. The first is when we allow ourselves to be seen as we truly are. Expression–creating in a way that we understand each other. Finally, healing–freeing something from your being. Authentic creativity connects us as humans. It wasn’t until I completed my first book that I realized I was healing that particular part of my life. It was coming to terms with the struggles I experienced in middle grades.
Wendy: Looking back, is there anything you’d have done differently?
Heather: The only thing I would have done differently was to take more time with my first book. I went from first word written to published in 123 days. Much of the process was a blur. Now, I take my time to enjoy each step in the process and because I know I can do it, I’m less frantic at all stages.
Wendy: What advice do you have for new authors?
Heather: If I were going to give advice to new writers, it would be:
- Write every day! Don’t worry about how you’re going to publish or sell your book, stick to the writing first. None of the other stuff matters, if you haven’t written your book.
- Ask for help! While writing is a solitary endeavor, being a writer doesn’t have to be. Look in your local community for writer’s group or find them on social media. It makes the writing process so much easier to have the support of other writers who know what you’re going through because they’ve been through themselves.
Wendy: What advice do you have for seasoned authors?
- Help others! Just as you should ask for help as a new writer, experienced writers should help others. Be generous with your knowledge and time. Remember what it was like to be just starting out and the awesome people who helped you along the way.
- Beware of shiny object syndrome. There always seems to be some new idea or approach that we should have been doing yesterday. I know because I have a number of incomplete courses sitting on my computer. Resist the scarcity mindset or the fear of missing out—you are exactly where you need to be—keep moving forward.
*One thing I think it’s important to mention to both new and experienced writers is the act of reciprocity—if someone helps you with a review or shares your posts—do the same for them, especially if you have promised to do so. Be impeccable with your word. Remember, a high tide raises all boats.
Wendy: What’s next for you? Do you think you have another book in your future?
Heather: Right now, I’m working on the developmental edits for an untitled time-travel, adventure series for middle grade boys. The book is inspired by two boys I taught years ago, one of whom, we lost the summer after he was in my class. It’s my tribute to what great friends they were and to the memory of a boy with the biggest smile ever!
Wendy: How can people contact you and get your book?
Face book: www.facebook.com/hrhobbsbooks