#AuthorInterview: Colleen M. Story

Jeri Walker
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Jeri Walker
Jeri Walker
Jeri Walker
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This interview with Colleen M. Story kicks off a special year-long focus in that every author featured will be from Idaho. This idea came to me when I served as a judge for the Idaho Author Awards and Colleen recognized me from Twitter at the awards ceremony in Boise. I fall more in love with my home state every year, and this series of interviews is one way to bring readers a slice of what makes Idaho great. There’s a lot more to the state than famous potatoes!

 

Official Bio: Colleen M. Story has worked in the creative writing industry for over 20 years. Her novels include Loreena’s Gift, an Idaho Author Awards winner and Best Book Awards finalist, and Rise of the Sidenah, a North American Book Awards winner and New Apple Book Awards Official Selection. As a health writer, she’s authored thousands of articles for publications like Healthline and Women’s Health; worked with high-profile clients like Gerber Baby Products and Kellogg’s; and ghostwritten books on back pain, nutrition, and cancer recovery. She finds most rewarding her work as a motivational speaker and workshop leader, where she helps writers remove mental and emotional blocks and tap into their unique creative powers. She is the founder of Writing and Wellness, a motivational site for writers, and plans her first non-fiction book release in 2017. Find more at her website, or follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

1. Please provide a brief synopsis of your most-recently released book.

Loreena’s Gift is about a blind young woman—Loreena Picket—who lives with her uncle, a reverend at a small-town church. She’s a dutiful niece and talented pianist for the congregation. But they’re both hiding a terrible secret. Loreena can kill people with the touch of her hand. While her uncle sees her as an angel of mercy, helping usher the terminally ill members of his flock into the afterlife, Loreena has her doubts. Torn between doing her uncle’s bidding and the allure of the fleeting moments when her eyesight returns on the journey to the other side, Loreena cooperates with her uncle until her troubled older brother returns to town. When she reveals her power by saving him from a local drug dealer, she is drawn into a sinister and dangerous world that will test the true nature of her talent and force her to consider how far she is willing to go to survive.

 

My publisher describes the book as crossing fantasy and literary fiction, and as “a thought-provoking meditation on life and death and what ultimately lies beyond this world.”

 

Image of Loreena's Gift book cover by Colleen M. Story

 

2. Tell us a little bit about what motivates or inspires your writing.

The writing bug didn’t bite me until I was in my late twenties. Up until then, I never once thought of becoming a writer. Looking back now, though, it makes sense. I was always daydreaming, and often preferred living in the worlds I created in my head to the real world. Riding my horse off into the wilderness, playing the piano and French horn, listening to music, reading, and drawing were my favorite pursuits.

 

When the idea to write came, it came like many things in my life—as a gentle but insistent whisper. I was walking through a Sears store and saw a word processor and suddenly had to have it. My fingers itched for the keys. I bought it and started writing the next day and I haven’t stopped. It was like I finally figured out what I was supposed to be doing. The experience was sort of weird, but it taught me to listen and to be open to intuitive nudges.

 

3. As an Idaho resident, what do you most enjoy about living here?

I love the Idaho country and the people who live here. The majestic Snake River flows only about two miles from my home. I’m surrounded by lush wheat and potato fields and a big, beautiful sky. I live only about an hour-and-a-half from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the beautiful Grand Tetons, and only two hours from the entrance to West Yellowstone Park. Craters of the Moon, one of the most unusual and spectacular national parks, is also only about an hour-and-a-half away, and offers some fantastic hiking trails.

 

The people in this area are super friendly, and they’re also hearty and self-sufficient. Everyone smiles and chats with you, from the waitress to the mailman to the banker to the farmer next door, and they’ll be the first to offer a helping hand to someone down on his luck. I also love the wildlife. I regularly see all kinds of large birds, including eagles, hawks, trumpeter swans, and cranes, and enjoy moose, wolf, coyote, and deer sightings on my walks near my home. It’s a wonderful place to be a writer: safe but wild, cozy but raw, with just the right amount of peace and quiet.

 

Author photo of Colleen M. Story

 

4. Describe some highlights of Idaho’s literary community.

I have to admit that I’m more involved in my area’s music community than its literary one. The music and art community are both quite active here, and I find playing the French horn in a number of area music groups to be the perfect counterpoint to all the writing I do. The literary community on the other side of the state is much more robust and active, and having enjoyed meeting some great people there, I hope to participate more often.

 

5. What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?

 I have two websites. The first is my author website and has all the information about my books and appearances, as well as the occasional personal story about life in general.

 

The second site is where I put most of my energies. Writing and Wellness is a motivational site for writers and other creatives. There, I focus on helping readers to avoid physical injuries, boost creativity, and manage difficult emotional challenges, like self-doubt and creative exhaustion. I’m really enjoying my work there and plan to continue to expand the brand and its offerings.

 

Writing and Wellness has grown significantly since I started it in 2014 (about 90,000 visitors a month now), and I attribute that to a growing number of key posts that readers find beneficial. I work hard to create helpful, unique information that gives readers what they need to improve their creative lives, and so far, that focus has helped make the blog successful.

 

Colleen M. Story Photo of Tetons

 

6. What does your drafting and/or editing process entail?

I’m pretty disciplined in my approach to writing, at least as far as producing something on a regular basis. I find if I don’t set a daily time to get it done, it doesn’t happen. I actually keep a log on an Excel file and “clock in and clock out,” so to speak, along with recording my word count for the day. I like comparing the total output from year to year, as it helps to keep me accountable.

 

As for editing I perform a lot of it myself before I show it to anyone—usually numerous drafts. Earlier in my career, I did hire editors to help me improve my craft, and I found that experience to be very beneficial. Now that I’ve had a few books published, I’m more likely to do most of the editing myself, and then to work with my publisher’s editor on the final draft. It depends on the book, though. If I ever feel I need more editing before showing a manuscript to a publisher, I wouldn’t hesitate to hire an editor again.

 

7. Are you traditionally published or self-published?

I’m traditionally published so far. As a new writer, I wanted that outside validation from a publisher. I also didn’t trust myself that I would know when one of my stories was ready for publication. I know how long it takes to become proficient at a craft, whether it be playing a musical instrument or writing a story. I wasn’t experienced enough yet as a fiction writer to be able to evaluate my own work that way, so I waited until traditional publishers accepted my stories.

 

I think I’d like to continue that path with my novels, but I do plan to dive into self-publishing with a non-fiction book in 2017. I’ve gone through the process before with clients (as a ghostwriter), so I’m somewhat familiar with it, though of course it’s different when it’s your own work. I’m looking forward to the experience, and definitely plan to hire professionals for cover and interior design, editing, and proofreading.

 

Picture of Jackson Lake by Colleen M. Story

 

8. Can you offer one or two helpful tips for fellow writers when it comes to marketing and publicity?

One of the things I’ve learned in marketing my novels is that book tours are useless unless you get reviews. Having a “book spotlight” on someone’s obscure website usually does nothing for sales. Reviews are critical in today’s market, so it’s best to either get the reviews yourself, or hire a book tour coordinator who will guarantee you a minimal number of reviews with your tour.

 

9. What future projects can we look forward to?

As I mentioned, I’m working on a non-fiction book for 2017—it will be in the same realm as the information I offer on Writing and Wellness—and I’m also working on a new novel entitled The Beached Ones.

 

Picture of Tetons and Jackson Lake by Colleen M. Story

 

10. Is there anything else you want your potential readers to know? What passions drive your life?

As I’ve mentioned, music is my other great passion, and I find that it compliments my writing well. As writers we need to listen for the rhythm and flow of the language, and my musical training helps with that. Plus playing with local groups gets me out of the house and into an entirely different form of artistic pursuit, one that is more social and active and has its own unique challenges.

 

In my interviews with other writers (many of which appear on Writing and Wellness), I’ve found that most of us use our creative muscles in a variety of ways. Some other writers are musicians as well, many are painters and crafters, and others are woodworkers, architects, gardeners, chefs, and more. The creative impulse underlies so many human activities, and the cool thing is that most of the time, it’s the power behind the good that we do. I’d go so far as to say that honoring the creativity inside us is the key to our personal and collective growth as human beings. That’s why I find it so rewarding to help writers honor that creative spark within them, and to nurture it well throughout their careers, because if we can do that, whether or not we experience success as writers, we will definitely become more fulfilled, inspired, and inspiring people.

 

 

You can connect with Colleen M. Story on her author website or on Writing and Wellness.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to know about Colleen M. Story?

 

 

Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2017

 

Author: Jeri Walker

Need help writing that book blurb, bio, or newsletter? Give your book the attention it deserves. Book your copy edit, manuscript critique, or proofread today. Make every word count.

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37 Comments

  1. Lorena’s gift sounds like a unique and creative story. The combination of writing fantasy novels while running workshops on wellness is pretty interesting. Looking forward to this series of interviews with Idaho authors. Perhaps because I’ve always lived in densely populated metropolitan areas I couldn’t be more curious about life in Idaho.

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    • Thanks, Ken. Idaho is beautiful with wonderful people. Great place to live and to visit. We are expecting big crowds for the eclipse this year!

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  2. Very interesting interview. And what an intriguing synopsis! Makes me want to read your novel right away, Colleen. Congrats for your success; I’m looking for wild-sided state to visit in the US (I love nature) and based on what you say, Idaho would suit me well!

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    • Thanks, Alessandro. Idaho is a great place if you’re a nature lover. Big state with canyons, forests, flatlands, mountains, rivers…the works. And not far from Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

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  3. A crossing between fantasy and literary fiction – Loreena’s Gift sounds intriguing. Those Idaho pics make me want to visit (again), they’re really beautiful. Looking forward to your line-up of Idaho writers, Jeri!

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  4. This book sounds rather intriguing. Lorena being torn between her morals and helping those around her. Interesting that Colleen did not start writing until her 20’s. Colleen provides a useful tip on choosing a publisher to ensure you are truly ready to publish your book.

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    • Thanks, Phoenicia. Yeah, I wasn’t one of those “wanna be a writer” from my kindergarten days. It came later for me. But now I have music and writing which is awesome!

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  5. Interesting interview. I could relate to a number of things – the daydreaming and the use of Excel to stay disciplined, for example. I like the comment about writers needing to listen for the rhythm and flow of the language. This is a good reminder to get back to tinkering on the piano.

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    • Ha ha. Definitely go play, Donna. Reminds me of Billy Joel’s tune, “this baby grand’s been good to me…”

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  6. I always suspected there was more to Idaho than potatoes! Interesting interview with some insightful comments.

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    • Ha ha ha. Well we’re proud of those too, Candy, and they’re soooo good right out of the ground. But much more going on here for sure. :O)

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  7. I am fascinated by this book…fantasy and literary fiction! An intriguing combination and also “a thought-provoking meditation on life and death” I must check it out! Thank you Jeri for another nice interview and lovely pictures.

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  8. Colleen is a wonderfully supportive writer and blogger. It’s nice to know a little more about her. Good advice on the book tours – I’ve always wondered about them.

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  9. I agree that once you have a creative impulse, it will most often exhibit in other ways as well. So I’m not surprised that a writer is also a musician. Sounds like a compelling book.

    And living in a city, I’ve met people who come from all over the world. But I’ve never known anyone from Idaho. Interesting to hear a little about the peaceful life there.

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  10. Gosh how interesting she sounds. The creative maven is one that can’t be held back and can show up in some very unexpected place. All that can lead great adventure.

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    • Thanks, Susan! Who doesn’t want to be called interesting? (ha) Happy creating to you. :O)

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  11. Interesting idea to focus on authors from Idaho, Jeri. Colleen sounds like an interesting person and hence a good author to start with.

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  12. I am not usually attracted to fantasy but this storyline sounds intriguing so I’m definitely going to take a closer look. Enjoyed your interview and couldn’t help but smile as Colleen was talking about where she lives since that area is first on my list of places to visit this summer now that I’m living on the mainland again. I also took a minute to jump over to Colleen’s Writer and Wellness website – looks like some wonderful articles so I bookmarked it to revisit later this afternoon. Thanks!

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    • Thanks so much, Marquita. I’m wondering which part of the state you’re going to see? We have a lot of area here!

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  13. Sounds like a dark novel that could have moments of light buried inside, Colleen. I understand how important it is for writers to seek out reviews to go with the book tours. I’m eager to help writers and review whenever the writing warrants it.

    Look forward to learning about Idaho, Jeri…you know how I miss my beloved Montana.

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  14. Fantastic interview Jeri, and great to learn more about Colleen, her work and about Idaho. Fantastic I shall check out her books. 🙂

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  15. Loreena’s Gift sounds like a compelling story. I wish Colleen much success with it. Reading her description of Idaho prompted me to remember my trips there. Such a serene and vibrant landscape.

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  16. Love the Book story line, especially the Publishers description of it!
    Also, loved the interview as always 🙂
    Thank you, Jeri, for sharing!

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  17. Thanks for this great interview, Jeri. It’s wonderful to read about Colleen’s work and thoughts about the writing life. Super author’s pic, Colleen!

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  18. Glad to see the interviews for the new year.
    It was like reading my sentences when I read her reasoning for going to the traditional publishing route.
    I had figured that if I could not get my book out by a publisher, it was not worthy to be published. I needed that validation.
    Thanks for sharing this.

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    • Fortunately there are several really great indie publishers out there today willing to take a chance on new authors. Thanks, William. :O)

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  19. I love the idea behind this story! So interesting and kind of twisted. And I’ve never been to Idaho but I’m adding it to my bucket list. It sounds wonderful!

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