Friday, August 28, 2015

Dreaming Big: An Interview with Author Sheenah Freitas

Today, I would like to introduce a friend and fellow YA author to the Realm. Sheenah Freitas started writing when she was in elementary school. By the time she graduated high school, she was well on her way to being a published author. She has published two YA fantasy books in her first series, The Zincian Legends, which she has recently relaunched. She is currently writing the final book in the trilogy, The Guardian.

Sheenah has also published Musings from Yesteryear: A ShortStory Collection, and has been featured in several anthologies.

As if writing isn’t enough, Sheenah is also the proud owner and proprietor of Paper CraneBooks, a small press company. She currently works with three authors, has published several books, short stories and an anthology. Five more books are already scheduled to be released.

Welcome Sheenah! You have been a busy girl. How old were you when you published your first book?

Hello Andrea and thanks for having me! I think I had just turned 20 (or a couple months after) when The Chosen was officially published.

I love that your first book is also called The Chosen. Small world! What was the experience like for you?

I had mixed feelings. I went through Lulu at the time and had no idea what to expect. I decided to pay for their services and although Lulu is a great company, I had certain expectations that they didn’t meet because I had no idea how any of the behind-the-scenes publishing stuff really worked. I think I was a bit disappointed when I first held my book in my hands. Now, several years later, I’m really proud to hold the new edition of The Chosen and tell people, “Yeah, I wrote this.”

How did you manage your writing career while going to school?

The truth is: I didn’t because I had no idea I wanted to go into writing. Writing was just a hobby in high school and all of my studies aligned with the medical career I initially pursued. I did take a journalism class as an elective early on because it was writing based and that was exciting, but I knew I didn’t want to be a journalist. The non-fiction format didn’t feel right to me. It wasn’t until I miserably failed a class despite staying up long nights to study the material that I wondered if a medical career was right for me. I knew the material, but I couldn’t apply it correctly. And I didn’t want to be miserable for the rest of my life, so my dad suggested I start focusing on writing. So my senior year became full of classes I thought would help me creatively.

Isn't it amazing when someone sees something so clearly you don't? I had a similar experience after my sophomore year of college. I was also going to go into the medical field, but couldn't pass the classes needed to do so. When I started questioning, "What do I want to do now?" my sister said, "You love to write. Why not do that?" Amazing. What type of classes did you take Senior year?

That is amazing. That’s pretty much what my dad said to me!

We didn’t have a lot of classes dedicated to writing, though luckily there was a creative writing class, which I took. I was already taking Latin because I was setting myself up for a medical career, but it actually turned out to be really helpful since it helped break down language and made me understand English and the usage of words better. I don’t think anyone needs to necessarily take Latin, but any foreign language class is, I think, beneficial.

I also took an English and drama class which helped me understand storytelling on different levels. You really learn to appreciate how essential it is to have a great character and how narrative and style can be so unique.

What made you decide to start your own publishing company?

My dad. Again. He suggested it after the small press I was with folded. By that time I was more comfortable with book production and I had a lot of the skill sets to pull off operating a publishing company. I still had a lot to learn but I feel like I’m finally in a place where I feel comfortable and confident of the way the books look and read that I produce.

How are you managing your writing and publishing career?

It’s been difficult. The first two years of running Paper Crane Books, I put my writing on the back burner. It wasn’t until this year that I told my authors, “Hey, I’m going to pull back a bit and focus a bit more on me.” I’ve been so wrapped up in book production, I feel a bit rusty diving back into the creation side of things, but I’m slowly getting there. One day a week is now dedicated to what I need to do for my books and my writing. I haven’t been consistent with it, but I’m trying. And now I’m getting up at ridiculous hours to try to cram more stuff into my day. It’s day two of that right now, so we’ll see how it goes since I’m not a morning person.

Figuring out a schedule can be tough. Do you have any type of planner you use that my readers could try for their busy lives?

Disclaimer: I’ve downloaded a TON of planning and scheduling apps and bought a ton of planners.
Out of all the planners I’ve tried both digitally and physically, I’d have to say that the best planner out there for me is a physical one. There’s just something about writing things down physically that helps me remember what I’m supposed to and keep me on track. Right this very moment, I’m using a whiteboard to keep write down all of my tasks and then I prioritize the tasks in my physical planner. I’m currently using the Passion Planner, which has been overall a good experience, but it’s still not exactly perfect for me.
I just learned about Midoris (seriously, look it up) and I made myself a Fauxdori (which is like a DIY Midori) to test it out instead of dropping a ton of money on one. My Fauxdori isn’t perfect YET, but once I finalize the design on my planner insert, I think I’ll finally have the perfect planner. I’m such a planner nerd. I’m so excited about my Fauxdori.
Do you have any further ambitions?
I’d like to see Paper Crane Books get bigger. Not so big that it becomes a huge publishing house, but big enough to where I’m not doing everything and can put more time into my writing. One idea has been to evolve the press into a sort of co-op where people who worked on the book would get a portion of the royalties (so for example, an editor gets 10%, author gets 40%), but I’m not sure. We’ll see.

I’d also like to reach out to more media. The press is re-building and re-branding our podcast. Eventually, I think it’d be kind of neat to have regular content on our YouTube channel that’s slowly collecting dust.

What advice do you have for young adults who dream big?

Keep dreaming big and reach for the star. Walt Disney has been quoted as saying, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” I just love that quote. It’s so motivating, but it doesn’t tell you that you can do what you dream if you put in the work. After all, you don’t wake up one day and say, “I dream of being an A-list movie star!” and expect to land your first audition. There’s work that needs to be done. Study the craft. Embrace the craft. It doesn’t matter if your passion is creative or industrial or whatever. Look to the masters. Look at what they’ve done. Surround yourself with inspiration. And then—and only then—grasp your dream. It might take years to get there, but keep going. Don’t give up.

Thank you so much for visiting the Realm today, Sheenah. You truly are one who has reached for the stars, and made your dreams come true. Where can readers find you and your books?

Thanks for having me! It’s been a blast. Readers can find me at my website

I’m also easily reached via Twitter

I reblog and post occasionally on Tumblr

I post a lot of cat pictures on my Instagram

And I have a Facebook page, but it gets neglected a lot. My Tumblr and Instagram are linked to it, so you could like it and get those two feeds in one.

Sounds good! You heard her, readers. Now start stalking!

Sheenah was born on the island of Oahu, but raised in the much less tropical atmosphere of Ohio. She can’t really pinpoint the time when she decided to pursue the starving artist path of being a writer, but she suspects it may have originated sometime in elementary school when she wrote her very first (but incomplete) fanfiction.

She loves to read. Although she likes the regular mainstream book, her preference is young adult. She’s quite convinced that if she could only draw better, she might have run off to California to get into the legendary CalArts and work for Disney. Room A113 awaits her in her dreams!

Her first novel, The Chosen, was based heavily on her love of magical fantasy, anime, and adorable heroines. If she was capable, she would have made the characters sing and have the story unfold in classic animated musical Disney style — but still in book form!