One of the most amazing things in life is when you get to work on something you love with someone you admire.
That’s what happened to me when YA author J.M. Storin contacted me about editing her new novel, The Paladin (available on Amazon in one week, April 8).
This past year has been an incredible one for The Paladin and for J.M. Storin. She has produced a novel, published that novel, and created an amazing social media following.
J.M. Storin was kind enough to grant 810 Showroom an exclusive interview to discuss her book, her journey, and making her dream a reality.
She is delightful, kind, and upbeat as she is talented.
810: First off, when did you finally decide to put in the work and write a book – a totally intimidating project?
Storin: Oh, man. So, it was right after I started working at Disney [Disney College Program]. For some reason, the story was constantly on my mind and evolving. I was thinking more about it and all the pieces started clicking. When I had a really good idea of how this world would look and what this story would be, I absolutely had to sit down and write it. I managed to find the time while working at Disney and would write it during my breaks on my phone, in the morning, or right before bed.
So fun! Did you have the story fully-formed in your mind when you started to write or did it evolve throughout the process?
It’s definitely still evolving even as I’m writing the second book. I love writing organically because it gives me more flexibility to change the path of the story if I feel there’s a better direction. I have a general idea of the arc and how it will end, but there are times when I have no idea what will happen next, which is so exciting for me! It’s like I’m on Briana’s journey with her!
Oooh. I like that! How did you model the character of Briana? How did you create her? How did you decide what characteristics to give her?
Briana is interesting. I wanted her to be three things; brave, down-to-earth, and, most importantly, relatable. If I were thrown into this world, I would aspire to be Briana. She would do anything for her friends and family. She sucks it up when the going gets tough. She kicks ass. And, she’s trying to find her way after a really tragic past. It is a character we can all read about and cheer for. This is what I wanted to accomplish. I wanted people to not only grow to love her, but to be able to relate to her and want to continue this journey with her.
And that’s such an admirable goal, especially when creating a female character. Now, in YA-dystopian lit, we have a lot of characters (Katniss, Tris, etc.) who are bad-ass but a lot of their characterization is wrapped up in their love interest. There are boys for Briana in The Paladin but that is never the focus — her relationship status. Was that a conscious choice?
Extremely conscious. That seems to have become the norm nowadays, where if a female is the main character, there has to be a relationship in there. Throne of Glass, Hunger Games, Divergent, the Mortal Instruments, Twilight; every one of these has a female main character and every one of them involves the character intertwined in some complex relationship status. Instead, I wanted to concentrate more on the world-building, Briana’s past and where she is going, and build other characters without involving that typical YA romance. I feel it takes away from the overarching message of a series at times if people are just focused on being “Team Peeta” or “Team Gale.” Does that mean there won’t be romance in The Paladin series? Not necessarily, but I never want this to be the focus.
And I love that. It humanizes Briana in a way that feels very familiar. It’s more real life to readers, I think. When your world implodes, romance isn’t necessarily at the top of the list of what to fix first.
Exactly. Briana, Caellum, and every other character are defined by so much more than their relationship status. Sometimes, focusing on friendships and family is just as powerful.
What is the biggest takeaway you would love, as the author, for readers of The Paladin to walk away with?
To want more, of course! Hopefully it hooks you in to wanting to find out what happens to these characters on the rest of their journey.
Besides that, even though on the surface this story is about Briana retrieving her stone, it is also about a young woman with a terribly tragic past who feels she doesn’t belong anywhere. Not only does she need to find her stone, but she needs to find herself and what her purpose is. It’s a lot about self-discovery and overcoming adversity to come out stronger than you thought possible. We’ve all had heartbreaks, experienced loss, and overcome adversity. Hopefully we can relate to Briana and her journey to overcome all of that.
What are the biggest pieces of advice you would give to someone going into self-publishing?
Make it professional. What I mean by that is, anyone can self-publish, which means there are going to be a lot of mediocre books out there that people didn’t have to get edited or spend a lot of money on.
So, my biggest piece of advice is to make it professional. Hire an editor, and make sure it’s a good one. Everyone judges a book by its cover, so spend good money to make sure your cover is beautiful and catches the eye. Last, market the book way before it comes out. I began marketing four months prior to the release date and it was the best decision. I now have a fanbase before the book has even been released.
You grew your social media following impressively fast and, like you said, gave the book a following before it is released. What has been the most effective thing for you, marketing-wise?
Instagram was the most effective social media tool for me to use. I was able to find the target audience for the book and cater to them. A couple of ways that I was able to grow my follower numbers were by releasing the first chapter, holding giveaways, and finding accounts with large numbers of followers to send my book to for reviews and promos. It is awesome to be able to interact directly with the target audience, so making sure to stay relevant, active, and kind is so important. Find the social media channel that works best for you and use it as the root that branches to the rest of your channels. Now, I tell my Instagram followers to check out my blog, Facebook, and website, which some of them will actively do.
J.M. Storin’s Instagram handle is @jmstorinbooks. The Paladin goes on sale next Friday (April 8) on Amazon.
Interview done by Shelby Dorsey, firstname.lastname@example.org