Category Archives: Writing

Creative Juice #277

Creative Juice #277

Ideas for a better life and more and better art.

Meet Author Shonna Slayton


Shonna Slayton is a prolific writer of young adult historical fiction and fairytale reimaginings. Her books include Cinderella’s Dress (2014), Cinderella’s Shoes (2015), Liz and Nellie (2016), Spindle (2016), Snow White’s Mirror (2018), The Tower Princess (2018), Beauty’s Rose (2019), Cinderella’s Legacy (2019), Sleeping Beauty’s Spindle (2020), The Little Mermaid’s Voice (2021), Lessons from Grimm: How to Write a Fairy Tale (2020), and its companion volumes, the workbook (2020), the high school workbook (2020), the middle school workbook (2020), the elementary workbook (2020), Prompts from Grimm (Grades 7-12) and Prompts from Grimm (Grades 3-6). I am delighted that she agreed to be interviewed for ARHtistic License–she has so much to share with us.

Cinderella's Dress

ARHtistic License: Many of your books are YA historical novels and/or fairy tale sequels. Where do you get your inspiration?

Shonna Slayton: I’ve long been interested in writing historicals and in particular telling women’s stories. But I also have a bent toward fantasy. Why not combine genres? With fairy tales, the inspiration is already there in the original story, giving me plenty to riff from. Once I’ve picked a fairy tale and paired it with a historical time period, the boundaries are set, and I’m free to imagine how to merge these two ideas.

AL: How long does it take you to finish writing a book? What is your favorite part of writing a book? What is the hardest part of writing a book for you?

SS: Each book is different. My favorite part of writing a book is the part I’m not currently working on (!) At least, that’s what it feels like right now. I’m deep in the weeds of Act 2 right now, pushing toward Act 3 and the words are coming ever so slowly.

Snow White's Mirror

AL: Are you a plotter or pantser?

SS: As much as I would like to be a plotter, I’m more of a discovery writer. I know many of the plot points going in, but not how I’m going to get there. I rely on the characters to make those decisions, but the characters are not fully formed in the first draft…kind of the chicken or the egg scenario. I write in a spiral, moving forward, but often swooping back to earlier chapters to add more information as I learn it.

AL: Your first few novels were published by a publishing house. Did you have an agent? What was your submission process like?

SS: Yes, I was originally published through Entangled Teen. I’ve never had an agent. I went to a writing conference with plans of what classes I was going to take, but when Entangled publisher Liz Pelletier stood up to introduce herself and the sessions she was giving, I changed all my plans and went to her talks. At the time, she was working off of a different publishing model which fascinated me, and I wanted to be in on the experiment. I simply submitted my work directly to her a few days after the conference. She’s a smart business woman, and I was thrilled to work with her company for as long as I did.

Liz and Nellie

AL: Now you mostly self-publish. Sometimes readers assume authors choose to self-publish because they’re not good enough to get a book deal. That’s certainly not true in your case. Why did you decide to abandon traditional publishing?

SS: To be honest, traditional publishing abandoned me. My fourth book got cancelled, and while the company was willing to keep working with me if I changed what I was writing, I wanted to finish what I started.
Fortunately, when self-publishing started to take off, I thought it would be a good idea to have a foot in both publishing models. My first attempt at self-publishing (Liz and Nellie, about Nellie Bly’s race around the world) came out between my second and third traditional book. So, when my contract was cancelled, it wasn’t much of a leap to turn to self-publishing.

Looking back, knowing what I know now, cancelling my book was a smart business decision for Entangled and, it turned out, for me, too. My books didn’t generate enough revenue to keep a publisher’s interest, but when all the royalties come to me, I can make it work. Under a trad publisher, my books would have slowly died, but with the tools available to indie authors (such as paid advertising, newsletters, control over pricing, and a bit of courage to put yourself out there), I can keep a steady stream of readers finding my books.

Lessons from Grimm

AL: What’s up next?

SS: I’m working on an original fairy tale trilogy based on kelpie mythology. While set in a fantasy land, it’s got a Scottish flair.

I’m also in the process of producing audiobooks for my Fairy-tale Inheritance Series. The first audiobook, Cinderella’s Dress is out now. It’s been fun to work with a voice actor to bring the story to life.

AL: It’s been great to hear about your writing and publication journey. Thank you for sharing with us. I’ve read most of your books and enjoyed them immensely.

SS: Thanks for inviting me onto your blog, Andrea! I love how you focus on creativity in a variety of ways here.

Creative Juice #276

Creative Juice #276

For creative people everywhere.

  • Wallpaper. You either hate it or love it. Here are some designs that might win you over.
  • This quilter finished a lot of lovely quilts in 2021.
  • A bunch of pretty quilts in different stages.
  • These ceramic mugs are works of art. (If you like animals, you’ve got to click this link.)
  • Wildlife photographs.
  • Do creative people ever misplace their tools? (Guilty.)
  • What habitual reading does for your brain.
  • Street photography.
  • What is it about successful authors that made their careers take off?
  • Resources for writers.
  • So, you quit your day job to write fulltime and now you can’t pay the bills? Here are some side hustles that will earn you a little cash and also help you be a better writer. Lots of openings right now.
  • How to generate content quickly.

Creative Juice #275

Creative Juice #275

Instead of getting bombed at some lame New Year’s Eve party, stay home and read these awesome articles! Something for everyone here.

Monday Morning Wisdom #342

Monday Morning Wisdom #342

I hate commas in the wrong places.

~Walt Whitman

Creative Juice #274

Creative Juice #274

This week’s offerings are heavy on writing advice, but you don’t have to be a writer to love the first two articles.

Creative Juice #273

Creative Juice #273

I challenge you to use one of these ideas this week. (Hmmm. I think I need googly eyes.)

What’s Your Writing Brand?

What’s Your Writing Brand?

People will tell you that in order to market your creative work, you need a brand. So, what’s a brand[1]?

  • According to the American Marketing Association, a brand is a “feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”
  • Donna Antonucci says, “Brand is a known identity of a company in terms of what product and services they offer but also the essence of what the company stands for in terms of service and other emotional, nontangible consumer concerns.”
  • Jay Baer says, “Branding is the art of aligning what you want people to think about your company with what people actually do think about your company. And vice-versa.”
  • Paul Biedermann says, “A brand is the essence of one’s own unique story.”
  • Lisa Buyer says, “A brand is created and influenced by people, visuals, culture, style, perception, words, messages, PR, opinions, news media and especially social media. Like when a child is born and given a name, a brand needs nurturing, support, development and continuous care in order to thrive and grow.”
  • Margie Clayman says, “Branding is the encapsulation of a company’s mission statement, objectives, and corporate soul.”
  • Heidi Cohen says, “A brand creates perceived value for consumers through its personality in a way that makes it stand out from other similar products.”
  • Gini Dietrich says, “Branding is the identity of a product or service. It’s the name, the logo, the design, or a combination of those that people use to identify, and differentiate, what they’re about to buy. A good brand should deliver a clear message, provide credibility, connect with customers emotionally, motivate the buyer, and create user loyalty.”
  • Ashley Friedlein says, “Brand is the sum total of how someone perceives a particular organization.”
  • Seth Godin defines brand as “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

Oh joy. Easy peasy. Coming up with an author brand should be a snap.

A lot of the time, an author’s brand is connected to their genre. You think of Stephen King, you think horror. Nora Roberts, romance. George R.R. Martin, fantasy.

But what if you write in more than one genre? That’s trickier. You need a focus that spans genre.

Think of the projects you’re working on. Who are the people who will want to read your books?

I love books that have an art tie-in, like Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. The artwork pulls me in.

My still-unfinished mystical fantasy, The Unicornologist, has a tie-in to the Unicorn Tapestries in The Met Cloisters in New York City. They captured my imagination when I was in high school and haven’t let go. I was born to write a unicorn book; it will be my magnum opus.

Not everything I’m working on has an obvious art tie-in, but the main character in my mystery is a piano teacher. It wouldn’t be hard to weave a little bit of creativity and art into any storyline.

When I started my blog, I wanted it to reflect my brand. That’s why ARHtistic License focuses on the arts and the creative process. Also, I knew I’d be able to generate content along those lines, since art and music and crafts and creativity are my greatest interests. I want to build a following among all kinds of art lovers—musicians, puppeteers, dancers, doodlers, quilters, crocheters, freelance writers. They’re my peeps. My blog is a tool to help me connect with other people like me.

By the way, did you ever wonder about the weird spelling of my blog name? Do you think I did that by accident?

When I applied for my domain, was already taken. I was heartbroken. I loved that name. Then I thought about how I could modify it, make it mine with a minor tweak. My maiden name is Rannertshauser, and I use R as my middle initial. Sometimes I write my name as ARHuelsenbeck, especially when I’m submitting a piece of writing. So I came up with ARHtistic License as the name for my blog. (I could have used ARHuelsenbeck, Author, but I don’t have a book in print yet, so it felt like cheating.)

Now it’s your turn. Do you have a writing brand (or a brand for your artwork or your music or creative endeavor)? What is it, and how are you building it? Share in the comments below.

[1] Thank you to Heidi Cohen for collecting these and many more definitions of brand.

Creative Juice #272

Creative Juice #272

Lots o’ neat stuff.

Monday Morning Wisdom #339

Monday Morning Wisdom #339

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
~ George Orwell