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  • Writer's pictureGrace A. Johnson

National Indie Author Day! (Books, Interviews, and More)

Updated: May 15, 2021

Guess what today is...

National Indie Author Day!

Now, I know most of you have never heard of this awesome holiday, and, to be honest, I hadn't until a month or so ago when a friend brought it to my attention! And I'm so glad they did, because now, we'll all be able to celebrate independently and self-published authors together!

Indie authors don't get the credit they deserve. In fact, most of the time they're put down by traditional publishers, agents, authors, and others in the writing/publishing industry--but why? Because indie authors and indie books don't appeal to the market. They aren't out there for money of fame--if they were, they would've opted for traditional publishing long ago. Indie authors desire only to get their story out there--and, sometimes, those stories are subpar. Indie authors can't afford editors to spit-shine their stories, and a lot of the time, indie authors are your average joes, like myself. Most of them are young teens and college-aged adults, working middle-class parents, grandmas--the people with a story to tell but not the resources to do so in a business-minded, market-focused, very expensive world.

Sometimes indie books are full of typos, errors, horrible grammar, and even some not-so-nice content.

Sometimes they're not even worth the $0.99 charged for a Kindle copy on Amazon.

But then there are other times that you discover a gold mine. You find a story that's extremely well-written and decently edited, with a plot that hooks you and characters you feel for, by an author you can trust to give you quality stories you could let your child--or your mama--read! Even better, sometimes you find a young Christian author who has a calling laid upon their hearts to write great books for God's glory--and that's worth all of your support.

Starting TODAY, Indie Author Day, I'll be sharing about new Christian indie authors so that you can do your part to support young authors following God's call on their heart. I hope to have a new author each month, at least throughout the winter season. And this month, I want to introduce you to the girl who actually got all this started by sharing Indie Author Day with me, R. M. Archer!

R.M. Archer has been an avid reader since the time she could first make out words, and has always been a lover of story. That interest developed into a love of writing when she was seven (though those first attempts have long-since been incinerated), and she’s been pursuing a career as an author ever since. Archer combines her love for writing with a passion for her fellow youth and aims to write YA speculative fiction that shows teens that even their deepest-seated struggles can be overcome.

In addition to writing fiction, Archer keeps up a non-fiction blog of writing tips and book reviews.

You can check her out at her website, follow her blog, and like her Facebook page, or follow her on Amazon, Goodreads, and Pinterest!

I'm so happy that Ms. Archer took the time to answer some of my questions! It's been great to get to know her as a person and a fellow author, and I can't wait to share about her with y'all!

The first thing I did was ask her those basic questions I like to ask authors, which helps me understand how and why they became a writer.

GJ: What first inspired you to write?

RA: Reading. I’ve been an avid reader since I was little, and when I was about six or seven I decided to try writing a story of my own. That first story was absolute garbage, of course (especially because I read a lot of Nancy Drew and tried to write a mystery with no plan… as a seven-year-old), but it got me started.

GJ: What are the driving forces behind your writing now?

RA: I write for a few different reasons. I write to encourage readers, for one thing, whether that’s something “deep” like portraying an encouraging theme within the story itself or it’s just providing an enjoyable story that serves to entertain. I also write to explore worldview and to work out ideas for myself and to get readers thinking. This is particularly evident in the building of one of my fantasy worlds, which develops largely around different ideas I want to explore. I enjoy using story to explore different themes and worldviews and philosophies in a way that is open-ended and relatively non-threatening. As sort of a blend of both of these, I write because media is instrumental in shaping the culture. I believe we need more good stories from a Christian perspective, books that don’t necessarily directly speak on Christianity but that explore edifying themes and handle issues in a Christ-honoring way.

GJ: Can you name any authors who have inspired your voice in different ways? How can you see their influence in your writing?

RA: This one is tough, especially since I don’t necessarily recognize my own voice, lol. As far as what I write, though, I can pinpoint a few. Terry Brooks was the first fantasy author I read, so he’s a large part of the reason I write… anything that I write, lol. If I hadn’t started with pretty classic fantasy, I wouldn’t have started my journey to the type of books I write now. Later on, as I started shifting into less “classic” fantasy, Maris McKay, Beth Wangler, and Hannah Heath had a significant hand in helping me to explore desert-based fantasy (in particular) and the vast expanses of fantasy that I hadn’t really explored before. Tolkien also has had recent influence, though not so directly. I’d read Tolkien years ago, but it was only in my recent re-read that I really clicked with his work. I realized how focused his writing is on the world and the characters of his stories, and how he weaves in so many quiet moments among the epic battles and questing of Lord of the Rings, and I was so encouraged by that because I’d been struggling with thoughts of “Will people read a fantasy novel that is as slow-paced and community-/character-focused as Calligraphy Guild?” And re-reading Lord of the Rings and realizing its similarities in tone reassured me that there will be an audience for Calligraphy Guild. (And realizing your focus is similar to that of Tolkien is pretty epic, too. ;D)

GJ: What are some of your favorite books/genres—to read and to write?

RA: I love writing fantasy. I love creating worlds that reflect and amplify different aspects of our own and that have no barriers but my own imagination, and then following the characters who live in those worlds and exploring how they think and how they behave based on their unique environment. As far as reading… fantasy wins out again 90% of the time, lol. But I also enjoy certain historical fiction, sci-fi, and contemporary. I actually really enjoy contemporary as a genre, it’s just tricky to find contemporary novels without content that I’m uncomfortable reading. I also like a lot of non-fiction, if you give me the right topic. Favorite books are too hard to pick, but I can give you handful of favorite authors to start with. Hannah Heath and Andrew Peterson are pretty high on the list. And Tolkien, obviously. I think those are probably my top three.

GJ: What do you do when you aren’t writing?

RA: I sing. These days I also study early U.S. history and government. I love debating theology and worldview. I learn French. I read books. I also watch a lot of TV shows (and critique them, as many of those around me can attest, lol); Stargate is my current binging show, which is really cool for its use of bygone cultures and peoples in sci-fi.

Of course, begin an author means that you've got books out there (ha ha), and I always love getting the inside scoop on writing processes, favorite parts, and direct summaries from an author's books. R. M. currently has three published works, all available on Amazon, and she's working on another project that's sure to be exciting, Calligraphy Guild. But before I share the questions I asked her, I'd like to link to her books and where you can find out more about them!

Lost Girl : Nya is the granddaughter of Captain Hook, and she has no intention of letting Peter Pan live after what he's done to her family.

When she finally finds his hideout and goes to raid it with her pirate band, she's caught, something she can barely comprehend, and when she starts to fall for Pan, it's an even bigger surprise.

But what will happen when she loses all she's come to love, and even Neverland itself?

Short Story Collection Vol. 1 : Silence: Fiona Wildman was born with powers she doesn't understand. Powers a scientific mega-corporation will stop at nothing to exploit.

Carnival Hearts: Ethan is amazed when his withdrawn friend Jasmine invites him to the abandoned amusement park for fun, but instead of the slightly-wacky tour he expects, he finds the opportunity to see a different side of Jas.

Escape Room: Four teens wake in a dark room. Faced with puzzles they must solve to escape, they uncover a sinister secret.

Caithan: Caithan is tired of her mother's strict traditionalism, but when she runs away from her own coming-of-age party, she runs into someone who teaches her to appreciate what she's been given.

I'm currently reading The Mirror-Hunter Chronicles, which you can preview below!

All the fairytales you've heard are wrong. They've all been twisted to be acceptable for general consumption, but I'm here to set the record straight.

I'm Solem Anders, Mirror-Hunter, and this is what really happened.

A Series of Unfortunate Events meets Disney in this short story series as Solem Anders pursues a volatile magic mirror across Ambrel, seeking to destroy it and end its trail of tragedy. But when princess Eira steps in his path and enlists his help to overthrow her mother, he is lured into her Pack by the promise of information. Is this the shortest path to the mirror, or just a treacherous diversion?

With the mirror barely out of reach, Solem's time is ticking away, and he'll lose far more than a princess when the clock strikes.

You can find out all sorts of details about Calligraphy Guild on R. M.'s CG page, but I'll go ahead and share a blurb!

Dragon ink allows writers to set history in stone—or to change it.

Duyên Lai’s dreams are realized when she’s admitted into the ranks of the calligraphers, authors considered trustworthy enough to defend time from those who would change it. She’s thrilled at the opportunity to record her country’s history, and to work with the other calligraphers in her village.

But when Duyên’s guild is set upon by ancient dragons demanding a time-changer be destroyed, her world is flipped upside down. Her guildmates turn on each other, suspicion coloring their every move. To make matters worse, she’s begun hearing the dragons in her head and finds them impossible to block out: a condition that rendered her grandmother insane.

With the calligraphy guild in turmoil and Duyên’s ever-present fear of madness clouding her vision, will the group be able to discover which of their guildmates has altered time before the dragons pass judgement on them all?

GJ: What is your writing process for Calligraphy Guild? Are you pantsing it? plotting it?

RA: I plotted it. Well… I plotted about 4/5ths of it and then left off because I didn’t know exactly how to end it, wrote those 4/5ths, and then outlined the ending and wrote it. And then rewrote the ending because it didn’t work. XD The initial outline turned out to be missing a few scenes, but overall it worked surprisingly well given that plot is a particularly weak spot for me.

GJ: How far along are you in CG?

RA: I am… two chapters from the end of my first round of edits, after the 1st draft and a rewrite/restructuring. The plan is to finish those two chapters and then dive into my second round of edits this month.

GJ: Who is your favorite character in Calligraphy Guild, and what endears them to you?

RA: Ooh… This is tough, because I love all of the characters in Calligraphy Guild. They were all specifically designed to be endearing, lol. There are three who stick out, though, if you don’t mind me breaking the rules a little. XD Tora is one of the POV characters in Calligraphy Guild, and she’s pretty epic. She struggles a lot with understanding and accepting her chronic illness, but she’s absolutely kick-butt and will fight for her people to her last breath. Makio is her brother, and… I have a soft spot for big brother characters. He’s super sweet and supportive, not only to Tora but also to Duyên (the primary MC), and just… classic big brother. He doesn’t show up a whole lot, but he’s lovely. Dai is Tora and Makio’s grandmother, but she’s kind of like everyone’s grandma, lol. Duyên comes to her for advice all the time, and Dai is so encouraging and supportive… but also doesn’t take any crap and will tell it like it is when she needs to. Also she wears a bunch of colorful shawls and has a pet toucan.

GJ: Can you tell me about your published stories?

RA: Yep! Lost Girl is a short story that is a continuation of Peter Pan. It follows Nya, the granddaughter of Captain Hook, as she goes to raid Peter Pan’s hideout but ends up falling for him instead. It’s a very feel-good fluff piece, but it’s pretty fun for what it is. The Mirror-Hunter Chronicles is what I consider my most “serious” publication, even though it’s incredibly different from anything I plan on writing moving forward. It’s a series of short stories (or a novella in parts, depending on how you want to look at it) following Solem Anders as he hunts down a slightly homicidal magic mirror. Each story retells a different fairytale, and there are also references to one or two additional stories. I describe it as A Series of Unfortunate Events meets Disney, so that’s the basic tone you’ll get. And Solem is snarky and his voice was a lot of fun to write, lol. Then there’s Short Story Collection vol. 1, which has actually been published twice. The first edition was my first publication, but I rushed into it and didn’t put out stories I was really proud of. I republished it this year with two of the stories edited and two replaced. It includes two sci-fi short stories that help lay the foundation for a series I haven’t written yet, as well as a short story set in the world I mentioned earlier (which happens to also be the world where Calligraphy Guild is set) and a contemporary short story that was just a one-off I really liked. It’s sort of a sampler of my work.

GJ: Which story was the easiest to write, and which was the hardest? Where did you stumble and second-guess yourself in your writing?

RA: Of my published works… I’m not sure. I remember having serious difficulties with all of them, lol. Individually, Carnival Hearts might have been the easiest (the contemporary story in the collection). I’m not sure if The Mirror-Hunter Chronicles or Lost Girl was harder. Probably the latter.

I really didn’t like Lost Girl when I first wrote it; it felt excessively fluffy and insta-lovey to me and that made it really hard to finish. Since then, though, I’ve come to appreciate it for what it is (with the help of several positive reviews, lol). I had trouble with The Mirror-Hunter Chronicles especially toward the end of it. I seem to remember the first few stories went pretty smoothly, but getting the structure of the last few stories to work was tricky. I changed directions once or twice before I figured out how it needed to go. Endings are actually kind of a frequent struggle for me, lol; I had the same trouble of figuring out how to structure the ending with Caithan (the fantasy story in the collection), and it stalled me for a while before I finally forced myself to sit down and finish it. I don’t honestly remember the process of writing Escape Room or Silence, but they had their own respective difficulties in editing, at least; and I struggled some to choose a final POV for Carnival Hearts. So… they’ve all had their difficulties, lol.

GJ: What made you choose self-publishing for them?

RA: I prefer self-publishing in general for the flexibility and creative freedom that it allows. I enjoy putting books together on my own, I enjoy designing covers, I enjoy reaching readers directly… I also love the indie author community, and I’m proud to be a part of it. With short stories there’s also a more practical reason: short stories are easier to self-publish, at least for me personally. I’ve never had much desire to submit my short stories to magazines or other publications, because it’s just not where my focus is (even though it may currently look that way, lol). I prefer novels, and (almost) all of my short stories connect to my novels somehow, and it makes more sense to me to self-publish the short stories if I’m going to self-publish the accompanying novels.

Being a published author means so much more than just having finished books with cool covers that people can buy and read. It also means that you've made it to another level as a writer. You're now a designer, a marketer, and--most importantly--an influence to other writers. It's always great to see what pubbed authors have learned and what they would say to writers who are just starting out--the advice they found the most valuable.

GJ: What are your thoughts for other aspiring writers on writing and publishing?

RA: Take your time. I’ve rushed (or tried to rush) publication more than once and I always end up regretting it. Don’t wait too long, either, if you are ready, but be sure to wait until you’re ready. You’re not losing anything by not publishing sooner, and you’ll be happier with the end result if you take your time and learn about the process deeply before you publish. Maybe do a test run or two to familiarize yourself with the process firsthand, but don’t rush.

GJ: What do you want your readers to take away from your writing?

RA: It depends on the book. ;) One thing that applies to all of them is that I hope readers enjoy my writing. I hope it brings happiness to their day. In the case of many of my upcoming projects, I hope my writing makes people think and that it encourages them to consider specific themes and issues and worldviews more deeply than they might have before.

GJ: Have you ever endured any discouragement being a young author? If so, what inspired you to persevere?

RA: I’m blessed to be surrounded by people who are really supportive of my endeavors and who will be honest with me but also encourage me. So I haven’t really dealt with a lot of discouragement specifically as a young author. Of course, all authors experience discouragement, and a big thing for me is that I don’t get to see a lot of engagement with my work because I don’t get a lot of reach yet. But on the flip side, it makes it even more encouraging when someone does provide positive feedback. And I know that I’m just getting started and haven’t published anything big yet, so I know I still have room to grow and reach and impact more people.

GJ: What are your greatest aspirations for your future, be it as a person or as a writer?

RA: As a writer, I’d like to see and be a part of a renaissance of Christian authors. You can already see the beginnings of this with sites like Kingdom Pen and Story Embers and groups like Realm Makers and The Phoenix Fiction Writers, but I’d love to see it become an even more unified movement and gain even more momentum. In general, I feel called to church ministry, somewhat officially and somewhat unofficially. I would love to do music ministry someday, and I’m hoping to study toward that in college. But I also just really would like to be an active member of a local church, to encourage focus inward toward what a church’s responsibilities are according to Scripture, to minister to those within my community, to adopt and/or foster kids… I haven’t had a whole lot of opportunity to do that kind of thing due to family health issues (and lack of a solid church nearby, unfortunately), but it’s something that is a high priority for me.

GJ: What has being a writer taught you?

RA: It’s taught me a lot of things, especially about God. Writing has helped me to understand my theology more clearly in some areas, and it’s also allowed me glimpses of His character and how He must view us and the world around us. Worldbuilding, in particular, has been so wonderful as I come to more fully understand God as the Creator: I wonder if He feels the same giddy joy at creating something He’s proud of as I do, as I realize how difficult creating a complete civilization is, as I realize how much complexity goes into creating an entire world and entire peoples and I wonder at His power and creativity and greatness that He could do all that He did in mere instants. Writing puts God’s greatness, God’s creativity, and God’s sovereignty all into much clearer perspective.

I am super grateful that I was able to interview R. M. Archer, and I hope that y'all have not only found a new author you might be interested in, but that you'll want to support young, Christian indie authors (or indie authors in general), especially on National Indie Author Day!

Don't forget--it doesn't end here! You can read indie books any day of the year, and I'll be sharing about more indie authors in the coming months. And don't forget to LEAVE A REVIEW! It can be positive or negative, but a review the very best way to support indie authors, even more so than just buying the book. Spread the word on social media, to your friends and family. We need the support, guys! And we appreciate it so much more than you could ever know!

Thanks again for joining me! I hope you'll check out R. M. Archer's books and keep your eyes peeled for more indie books and authors!

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