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.
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.
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.
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.
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.