Spotlight On...

Chrissy Szarek

by Gina Lee Nelson

This month our Spotlight focuses on Chrissy Szarek. Though she’s only been a member for less than two years, Chrissy is serving her second term on the NT Board of Directors. During that time, she has also secured publishing contracts with two different publishers for her first two submitted manuscripts.

Chrissy, when did you write your first story? Tell us about it.

When I was about fourteen, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I actually wrote books when I was fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen. The only one I finished was the one I wrote when I was seventeen, Dani's Plight, after re-writing it a few times in my 20s. I might look at it again someday and do something with it. Hmm, the book I wrote when I was fourteen was Urban YA/ Middle Grade Fantasy, I guess. It was about a fourteen year old girl who stumbles into a disappearing magic shop in the woods and buys a dragon's egg. She ends up with a dragon and has her first kiss. I never finished it, but I am thinking that is not such an original storyline these days.

Why do you write fantasy?

I have always written short stories and many unfinished projects. Sword’s Call is the first one I finished; and I suppose it's the most developed world I've done so far. But I don't see it being my last fantasy world. I love fantasy, I always have, always will. I think I write it because it's the way my mind works. Magic, dragons, elves, they're more fun than the real world.

What fantasy writers and books have influenced you?

Anne McCaffrey. I have always loved her and her Dragonriders of Pern series. Now that she's passed, I am glad that her son, Todd McCaffrey, is carrying things on. It's exciting that he loves the world as much as I do.

I know you started Sword’s Call many years ago. What was the catalyst that drove you toward publication?

Well, I always knew I wanted to be published. I just didn't know the how’s until I joined NTRWA in 2011. I visited once in April and knew the awesome ladies of the group could help me learn everything I needed to know about how to get published. They did. I joined in May of 2011 and got my contract for Sword's Call in Feb 2012.

How did the awesome ladies of NT specifically help you?

Well, they (yourself included) gave me a place to feel like I belong, first of all. No one understands a writer like another writer--no matter the genre. I knew I wanted to be published but I didn't know where to start; so, of course, when I got here for the first time I asked questions. Learned what a query letter is, the role of the agent, and the dreaded synopsis. I learned how important critique is and joined a few NT regulars in a critique group. I learned that there are publishers you don't need an agent for; and I learned (still learning) how publishing has changed and is continuing to change. No matter what research I could have done online, I don't think I would be as far as I am without NT.

What steps did you take that lead to publication with Gypsy Shadow Publishing?

Fellow NT member and Gypsy, the lovely Jeanne Guzman, told me about GSP. I just submitted to them. My editor, Denise, asked to see the whole MS. She loved it and contracted my whole series. Book 2 should release late 2013 or early 2014. My steps were finishing the story, writing and editing, rewriting the story, and receiving critique until I felt like it was ready for submission. I got ALOT of no's before I got that yes.

I consider you a social media guru. How often are you on social media? How has it specifically helped you as a writer?

Aww, thanks. I kinda live on FB. I think my phone and its app are permanently attached to my hand. I think it helped me because I am a huge reader. Long before I got my contract, I joined and was invited into many groups on FB that are reader-centric. I then made friends/contacts that knew I was writer as well and got them hyped for my books WAY before any came back. I started a blog, a FB fan page and twitter, gathering followers and fans along the way. This all helps. People want to know YOU and see you as a person. And readers think it’s COOL to know a published author, even if you're not J.R. Ward. I am on FB and twitter every day. I am getting better about consistently blogging as well. I want to hold onto the followers I have gained.

What mistakes have you made on social media? What pitfalls should those of less savvy with social media avoid?

I don't know that I have made mistakes. Perhaps I've been annoying to people for too many posts, but you have to get your name out there. I'm not sure about pitfalls; but I can tell you, I believe it is important to have a presence on social media. I would say avoid stating your personal opinions on political topics and, of course, religion and causes. Stay below the radar on that stuff. You never know when something you say can be taken offensively. So, keep it to writing and books and things you like, hobbies, pets, etc.

Your next release is a romantic suspense. How did you make the leap to another sub-genre?

Collision Force (Crossing Forces, Book 1) is about an FBI agent who meets his match in small town Texas with a female police detective when he goes cross country after a human trafficker who got away from him.

I have a background in law enforcement; and I have always loved reading this genre, so I thought I would try my hand at it. It was harder for me to write within the real world, where I had to follow rules instead of make them up; but I love this story. I think it's actually the strongest book I have written to date.

What motivates you to keep writing during the tough times?

Hmm, I think my characters do. They don't shut up until I write them down. When I am stuck on a scene, I will read over the previous one to see if I can't get moving. But when I go on a drought, where I don't want to write or I have a block, I try to think of the goal, of what I want: GET THE BOOK DONE AND OUT IN THE WORLD. It usually does the trick!

What have you overcome to be a writer?

I don't know that I've overcome anything. It's something I have always wanted to be. Something that always was a part of me, and always will be. I will always write. It's just who I am.

If you could be any author, who would you be?

I wouldn't be anyone else but me. I might want the fame of another author, or to write stories that people love as much as the authors I really admire, but I would just be me.

Thanks, Chrissy, for sharing your writing journey with us. Let’s support her by buying her books and finding her online.

Sword’s Call, Book One in the King’s Riders Series
Available in print and e-book from Gypsy Shadow Publishing.

Collision Force, Crossing Forces Book One
Pre-order May 20, Pre-release June 3, General Release July 1, in print and e-book from Total-E-Bound-Publishing.


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