My guest this week is urban fantasy author Holly Lyne, who discovered that indie publishing isn't just about writing books. She weaved an entire fantasy world for her readers to enjoy, and then began to give back to the indie community through podcasts and workshops. Indie publishing, to Holly, is all about freedom.
Every week I interview a member of ALLi to talk about their writing and what inspires them, and why they are inspiring to other authors.
A few highlights from our interview:
On Creating a New World
It just took on a life of its own and it was it was like a snowball really and I kept writing, it kept growing. It grew beyond what it had been originally and became something very different and something that I was incredibly proud of. And I knew I had to share it with the world.
On Why She's an Indie Author
To me, it's about having freedom. That's kind of my core value. It's what I'm always striving for in all areas of my life and I really want to get to a place where I'm financially free and location free where I can travel the world and, and keep working, keep writing.
Listen to My Interview with Holly Lyne
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About the Host
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and has spent the last six years amplifying the voices of independent publishers and authors. He works with authors as a book editor to prepare their work to be published. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Daily Forward, and Longreads. Find Howard at howardlovy.com, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Read the Transcript of my Interview with Holly Lyne
Howard Lovy: My guest this week is urban fantasy author Holly Lyne, who discovered that indie publishing isn't just about writing books. She weaved an entire fantasy world for her readers to enjoy, and then began to give back to the indie community through podcasts and workshops. Indie publishing to Holly is all about freedom.
Holly: Hi, I'm indie author, Holly Lyne, and I live in the UK with my family and my cat, who was also my midwife and yeah. I write dark urban fantasy and have been indie publishing since 2013. I'm the total stereotype I've been writing since I was able to hold a pen. I guess I didn't believe that it could be a career. It was it was very much a hobby. I went off to Uni and I actually did drama. I was thinking that I would become a director. That was kind of what I wanted to do and then I started writing screenplays, and thought maybe that was the direction to go in. But then I ended up getting married and having children and life just took me on a detour.
Howard: For a while she did administration work for a charity, a housing association for young people, helping kids in the system who had nowhere else to go. It was a noble cause, but it was not the creative work that she wanted in her life.
Holly: It didn't nourish my soul, the way that being creative does. It was when I was, I think I was pregnant with my second child, and I had this story idea that I really needed to write down it was like it couldn't be contained in me. And so, I started writing my first novel, and he was born in 2012. I took a little break, but then I came right back to it and it was almost like I had a thirst to express myself, and to find a way to be more than a mum.
Howard: With Holly's first book, she began to weave together a separate fantasy world.
Holly: It came out of a role-playing game that I'd played with some friends, over about 18 months. We met up every single week for about two to three hours and we played this role-playing game, we became incredibly close. And the game was just incredibly immersive. We all got really into it.
We used to email each other in between game sessions, like in character to carry on story. This story was it was magical. It was just so intense and immersive and powerful, and I really felt the need to share it with people. So, I started writing it down. I felt like I wanted to publish it, but I had to completely change the world and make it my own, obviously, for copyright reasons. So, I took the core story, but I changed the way the world worked. I changed the Lexicon of the game that you know, took out anything that was trademarked and, and made it my own and, and building that world around the story. It was an incredible process, I almost felt, you know, almost godlike, you know, doing this this world building and I just, I developed a really intense love for that process. I you know, it was like a kind of alchemy.
Howard: Holly also realized that what she had was not just one novel but four.
Holly: And it just took on a life of its own and it was it was like a snowball really and I kept writing, it kept growing. It grew beyond what it had been originally and became something very different and something that I was incredibly proud of. And I knew I had to share it with the world. It wasn't enough, you know, to just keep it to myself.
Howard: Holly’s world is an intricate one filled with all the creatures in magic you'd find in an urban fantasy setting.
Holly: It’s this world but with a hidden layer of magic and supernatural creatures, the main characters are shapeshifters. And they take different animal forms based on what phase of the moon is, you know, in the sky when they change for the first time, they organized themselves by pack and there's a lot of politics. There's a lot of rivalry between packs and a lot of history.
I thought a lot about the backstories of the packs, where they came from and what influenced them all and how those rivalries and what little bits of cooperation there were had evolved over time. There are demons there are fe and this kind of shadow world called Hypethea, which is kind of the shapeshifter home realm and shapeshifters can shape Hypethea. So, as well as being able to change their own form, they can change what Hypethea looks like. So, you know, each pack will control their territory and make it look how they want it to look based on their needs and their affinities and which demons and fe they're allied with and so on.
Howard: So, Holly is the poster person for indie publishing. She didn't just have a book; she had a series of books and a whole world to sell. The next step was to decide whether to go traditional or indie publishing, to Holly, there was only one choice.
Holly: I knew a little bit about traditional publishing just from pop culture from my previous interest in writing and I knew that it wasn't for me, I knew that it took a long time and I knew that it's fundamentally a fairly sexist industry, that women do not get chosen very often.
So I looked into self-publishing, I didn't really give it too much thought it was just, I just knew that was the route that I wanted to take. And this was just really when eBooks were becoming a thing. So, I looked into print on demand companies, that was my way in really, and I discovered a company called Feeder Read, which I don't know if you have in the States, it's a very UK based company. And so I published my first book initially through them, and then it was only when I, I kind of got into the community such as it was at the time and found out about KDP and the eBook option, and then it was like the world opened up and there was a whole other way that I could find readers.
The very first book was called Seeds of Autumn. The series was Echoes of the Past, but I've recently renamed it's a four book series and I am I've given all the books, new titles, because I was very naive in the beginning and I wasn't thinking about marketing and decisions like that.
So, I, I gave my books quite esoteric names, you know, it was very much like, oh, what's the book about, rather than what's going to sell. I feel like I've learned a great deal over the years and I'm in a, you know, very privileged position really to be able to make decisions like that about my books. Now as an indie author, I can just change the names and relaunch them. So that's why I'm doing this year I have this big project on to rerelease all of those books with new titles and new covers.
There's a you know, an awful lot of theming around equality and diversity and standing up for what's right. So, yeah, I think there's a certain amount of how I see the world that makes its way into my books. Definitely.
Howard: Holly is using her success as an indie author to help other writers succeed too.
Holly: I began podcasting last year with my business partner, Angeline Trevena, we decided that there wasn't really an event in the UK that was really aimed at indie authors. There are so many for traditionally published authors, we felt there was a gap there, so we decided to fill it. So, we're hosting our first event. It's called “Indie Fire”, on the 30th of May, and it's a full day of panel discussions and workshop sessions aimed at you Independent authors.
So, we've got workshops on, you know, improving your prose, writing better working with an editor, how to make a living as an independent author and we've got panel discussions on like time management and process. And we're going to be recording a, an episode of our podcast, which is The Unstoppable Authors Podcast, with a live audience, which is really exciting.
Howard: To Holly Lyne, indie publishing isn't just about writing books. It's part of a lifestyle that she desires at is independent, and free.
Holly: To me, it's about having freedom. That's kind of my core value. It's what I'm always striving for in all areas of my life and I really want to get to a place where I'm financially free and location free where I can travel the world and, and keep working, keep writing, I have educate my kids. And it's really important to me to show them a good example of a way that you can live your life that is free and full of the things that you love. So, I try to model that.
Yeah, the events are about connecting this life can be, you know, as a writer can be very isolating, and it's very much a solitary profession, despite the fact that we do also work with editors and cover designers and so on. We do spend a lot of time alone. So being able to connect with other authors and to learn from each other and help each other to lift each other up, I think is a big part of why I'm indie and why I value what we do.