In my last post, I shared my excitement over a sci-fi/romance manuscript I was lucky enough to proofread a few months ago. RIBUS 7 by Shae Mills was a dream project from an editor’s point of view—a compelling story that has been revised and professionally edited, revised again, edited again, and was ready for proofreading before publication.
(Learn more about RIBUS 7 here)
In her first email to me, the author explained that she’d been working on her story for many years. That got me to thinking about everything a writer goes through to turn the spark of an idea into a concept for a book series, which got me to wondering about Shae Mills in particular: where did the idea for RIBUS 7 come from? How did she create the world her characters inhabit? Is her main character, Chelan, autobiographical in any way?
I decided to ask Shae Mills some of those questions; her answers may surprise you.
Candace: Thank you for agreeing to share some behind-the-scenes info with us, Shae. Where did the idea for this book and the series come from?
Shae: I have no idea to this day. I was an only child raised in remote locations, so I only had myself for company. I therefore developed a fertile imagination from a very young age.
Fast forward to my late twenties when my life was changed drastically by the birth of my first son. At some point as I mentioned above, I was sucked into the depths of crippling postpartum depression, and I had no idea what was happening to me. All I knew was that the world I had built for myself was crumpling around me, and I was powerless. But I told no one of my mental decline. I didn’t want to appear weak. No one had any idea of the distress I was in.
When my days began to revolve around planning a permanent way out, I knew I needed help. I finally confided in a dear friend and university colleague that I was losing it. He shocked me by admitting to also having issues with depression, and he told me that I should try writing. At that suggestion, I laughed for the first time in nearly a year. I had almost failed my first year English course—why would I write?
But as time passed, out of pure desperation, I decided to try. I went out and bought a notebook . . . sat down one day and wrote Chapter One on the top of the page, and just began to write.
When I finished typing at the end of four months, the book was 1300 pages, 76 chapters. That manuscript became Books One and Two. While I was writing, the story just flowed, from page one to the end, no stopping, no detours . . . and no idea where the story came from. By the time I was finished typing, I was well again.By the time I was finished typing, I was well again. #postpartum #depression #writing #therapy Click To Tweet
Candace: Writing as medicine—I bet more than a few writers out there can relate. Did planning the world Chelan and the Iceaneans inhabit come easily?
Shae: Nothing was planned, not even the world building. It simply materialized in my mind as I went. I had been at university for ten years with the majority of that time in the sciences and engineering, so I had the background for the world building. I simply wrote what I knew.
Candace: Does that mean your heroine, Chelan, is autobiographical?
Shae: Hmmm . . . a dangerous question to answer, lol. Yes, to some extent, but I’m certainly not an aeronautics engineer! There are certainly elements of my personality portrayed in her character, especially elements from when I was young. I was crippled by shyness and low self-esteem, and those were things I had to work very hard at to overcome. Mind you, I had to do it on my own. I didn’t have Korba, Dar and Fremma to help me out. If only . . .
Also, I was in the throes of severe postpartum depression and on a complicated, emotional rollercoaster ride, and that was reflected in my main character’s behavior. When I was okay, so was Chelan. When I was down, so was she.
I think all writers inject some of themselves into their work. How can we not? We tend to write what we know, colored by our perspectives and our life experiences. Therefore, we end up being reflected in our characters by default.
Candace: Did you always envision this as a series of books?
Shae: There was never any vision of writing “books” or of publishing. I was driven by mental illness to escape reality into a fictional world of my own making. My characters took over and wrote the book . . . so much so that at times I felt I was schizophrenic. Many times I actually felt fear over the unknown process that suddenly dominated all aspects of my life during my darkness. My characters spoke nonstop to me . . . all day and often through the night. I honestly had no idea what was going on. And I seemed to have very little control over the story or my character’s behavior. When I was finished writing, I gathered up my work and tucked it into the attic, where I fully expected to leave it until someone disposed of it after I left this world.
Candace: Lucky for all the fans of RIBUS 7 (and those already clamoring for Book 2, TICEES), you decided to publish these books instead of leaving them in your attic! Why did you decide to self-publish?
Shae: Taking very private words from a deeply dark time in my life and allowing people to read them went against every fiber in my being. But for some reason, at this point in my life, I was driven to put the work out there.
When I decided to publish, I became connected to a wonderful lady who is my developmental editor and acted as my agent. She was more than willing to pitch my etchings to the big houses, but she said she was worried about two things: first, that traditional publishers would try to shorten the work, and they might try to fit it to one of their formulas.
I didn’t want my writings to be manipulated. I took a lot of her advice when doing the developmental edits, but I refused a lot of changes also. The work had a unique upbringing. It was essentially my emotional outpouring while very ill, and I didn’t want that changed. I told my editor that the work would basically sink or swim as it was. There was no way I could have kept that control with a traditional publisher.
If I had known how grueling and long this process was going to be, quite likely I would have left the manuscripts in the attic. In fact, numerous times I questioned my sanity along this particular leg of the journey. And I was the most clueless person on the face of the earth when it came to the whole editing and publishing process.
After we spent four months going through it, my developmental editor phoned me and told me I needed a copyeditor. I needed what??? I thought we were done. Oh, man. It was while searching for my copyeditor that I also discovered I would need a proofreader. This process is going to take forever, I thought.
My absolutely fantastic copyeditor took two months to weave her magic, and while she was working, I interviewed 16 proofreaders. I had already decided to follow the mantra, “Go big or go home,” so at this stage in the game I was getting pretty knowledgeable about the process.
It was a time-consuming and daunting process for such a large book. But the payoff was priceless. The book is flawless, and readers are commenting on that. I would not have it any other way.
My advice: if you have written a good book, do whatever it takes to procure high level editors. Your readers will thank you for it.
Candace: The editorial work that went into the manuscript before I proofread really showed. And you’re finishing up edits right now on Book 2, TICEES, which will be available in 2015. Please tell us a bit about this sequel.
Shae: As I mentioned, RIBUS 7 and TICEES were originally one huge manuscript. So TICEES picks up right where RIBUS 7 left off. It continues with pitting Chelan against the Iceanean culture, her values and desires versus theirs. Where RIBUS 7 explored Chelan’s internal struggles and touched subtly on such topics as abuse, PTSD, and Stockholm syndrome, TICEES is more about the fight for control of one’s total destiny. The whole concept of the human condition is further explored if one wishes to go deep. It takes yet another look at our world and our values, but most of all, it’s about Chelan and her quest for inner peace within her new reality.
Chelan has just gotten her feet under her after an extremely traumatic induction into an alien world onboard RIBUS 7, and now here it comes at her again, another huge shift in her world as she steps foot on Iceanea, the world of the Emperor.
Chelan had struggled with many complex social and emotional issues in the first book, but in the end, despite all the adversity, she rises to the top and begins to flourish. When she meets Ticees, all that has gone before and all she has learned is brought into question once again. Pitted against adversity once more, this time she takes drastic measures into her own hands to protect both herself and her men.
Candace: Thanks so much, Shae Mills, for sharing a bit of yourself with us.
If you haven’t yet read RIBUS 7, the book described by its editors as “some of the most sensuous romance ever written,” do yourself a favor and read this free sample. And be sure to follow Shae on Facebook.
Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here.
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