From Creative Outlet to Artistic Career: An Interview with Isabel Sterling

Below is the transcript to episode 24 of A Book and A Dream.

Isabel (00:02):
He was, it was, he was very proud of me. But he also was just like fiction: who reads that?

Megan (00:07):
Millions and millions of people.

Announcement (00:10):
Welcome to A Book and A Dream with Megan O'Russell: An Author's Adventure in Writing, Reading, and Being an Epic Fangirl.

Megan (00:27):
Hello and welcome to this episode of A Book and A Dream. Today. I am thrilled to have Isabel Sterling here with me. Now Isabel is the author of the These Witches Don't Burn series. Thank you so much for coming to chat with me.

Megan (00:41):
Yeah, thanks for having me.

Megan (00:43):
Now, one of the things that I didn't realize when I asked to talk to you on a book at a dream that I'm super excited about is that you were working in music in college music composition. Is that right?

Isabel (00:57):
Yeah, so I, I studied, um, we called it studio composition and basically it was writing music that was meant to be recorded. Um, so I did that for four years and, but I realized pretty quickly that I had come from a really small school, so I was sort of like a big-ish fish in a tiny pond. And then I went to a school near New York city and I was like, Oh no, I am not good enough to be doing this.

Megan (01:22):
that's, I mean, I'm sure you're amazing, but I, I can't understand the, the overwhelming nature of it. I love that you were in music and in composing because I am an actor. And so for me, the transition from acting to writing had so much to do with storytelling. I was miserable in a show and I needed it outlet. And so I turned to writing as a way to have that creative storytelling atmosphere. And we did a little pre-interview form. And from what I saw in there, it feels like your experience was very similar in that you, you are a storyteller and you were looking for other avenues. So how did that process begin for you?

Isabel (02:05):
Yeah. So I did the four years of music school, um, and it was very, you know, music, you know, especially music writing is very much a form of storytelling. Um, so I did that for four years and then when I left I had kind of burned out so hard from those four years of music school that I, like I have not honestly written a song or touched music since I graduated. Um, but then when I transitioned into a very like academically focused sort of like traditionally academic grad school program, I all of a sudden had no creative outlet. So my second year of grad school, um, I... I don't know, it was almost like the universe kind of intervened cause I was literally just driving to my grandmas to take my little head baby cousins. I was taking them trick or treating and I was on my way to my grandma's house and I was like, Oh, I should write a book. And then of course the next day is the first day of national novel writing month in November. And I started writing the next day and I just like have not stopped since.

Megan (03:02):
That's amazing. And it's such a, even for people who don't necessarily want to be an author who don't want to go through the full process, writing is such a healthy and convenient outlet. It's so, it's so amazing. And you don't need a guitar or a piano or tap shoes or a dance studio or a stage. It's so contained and easy. And so you were in grad school, you turned to this for an outlet. You started writing your first book. At what point in the process of writing that book did you decide that you wanted to go the author route and it was more than a just an outlet for you?

Isabel (03:42):
Yeah, I think it was probably when I was revising that first book. Um, I don't know actually if she's still around. Um, but this is back in 2012 there was an author, Holly Lyle, and she had this big like revision course you could buy and it, it walked you through. It was like a 13 week course. It was like a really intensive, like how to break down a book and sort of build it back up. And, um, I took that course and while I was doing that, I learned, I actually like revision more than I like drafting. So like wow, I recently actually, so right now I'm drafting, um, what is my ninth novel, but it'll hopefully be my third published book. Um, and so I finally have found a way to draft that I enjoy, but so for eight books, I hate drafting and then I love being able to like take something and it sort of becomes like a puzzle and I break it apart and I can figure out how to fit it together.

Isabel (04:37):
Um, but I think it was doing that for the first time and I had just had this moment of like, I love this so much. Like how do I make this something that I can do forever? And for me that was like, I want people to be able to read it and I want to share it. Cause I, you know, coming from music is a very sort of like performance based kind of area where you know, you write music for other people to hear it. That's kind of, you know, how you experience music. You can't just like me can play it for yourself. But that's, no, I think that happens much less frequently than um, you know, writing for yourself.

Megan (05:09):
Yeah. So you were talking about your drafting process and I think you're the first person I've ever spoken to who enjoys editing more than writing. I don't, I hate editing as much as some people, like we've come to like a happy understanding, like editing and I could be casual acquaintances who like hang out sometimes. But what, what is your drafting process and how has it changed that you feel more comfortable with it now?

Isabel (05:37):
Yeah, so I mean my process has definitely changed a lot over times. My very first book I just completely pantsed. Um, so my very first book I was like, I don't know what are all the things that I like in a fantasy. And I just kind of like threw it all together. And just wrote a book, um, with like no planning whatsoever. Um, and then as I've kind of gone along, I've gotten to be more and more of a plotter. Um, so from there, from that first book, I eventually learned about like the save the cat, um, book with a beat sheet. So I kind of learned to do sort of like the 15 sort of like major beats and kind of, I dunno, pants my way in between. So did that for a while. Um, but part of, I think my struggle was I almost never really knew the story until I got to the end.

Isabel (06:24):
And then I would go, okay, now I know what this book needs to be and I would basically rewrite the whole book for my second draft. Um, and so I don't know if part of it is just like growing as a storyteller. And I think part of it too is this book that I'm writing now, I did a lot more, um, character development. Um, I read, we find the book, I don't see it. Um, I think it's called story genius. Um, and it's the first book that I kind of craft book that I read that had a lot of information about like crafting characters and not just like what's their hair color and what's their whatever. Um, it's really dig, dig deeply into sort of like what are the major events in their life that created a person they are today. And you actually write those scenes out.

Isabel (07:17):
Um, and doing that for me completely changed how I interact with character. And I think knowing that I had a much, I kind of was able to grow the plot from the characters, which I usually kind of go a little bit more backwards or I'd have plot first. Um, so I think that's a big part of it. And then I just thought a lot more now too. So like, so what I did this time is, um, so I applauded the first, just the first act like kind of had the general beachy, but I applauded every single scene for the first half. And then I wrote it and then I got to revise it and I love revising. So that was sort of like my like, Oh, I get to do a little bit revision. And then when I did that I got to plot to the midpoint and then I drafted that and then I was like, Ooh. And I get to her by this chunk. So it sort of allowed me to like include the things that I love as I was going, but it was also much more character based too. Um, so I think I just, I don't know, I feel like I'd get story in a way that I didn't maybe two, three years ago.

Megan (08:16):
That's such a huge thing about learning from writing more books that you see a lot of people who are on their very first book and they're struggling so hard to get to the end and they're like, but you're, you're good at this and you just, you've written so much, it's a natural gift. And you're like, no, I've spent, you know, a few thousand hours slamming my head against a keyboard. Right. It's not like, yeah, there, there are some people who are more gifted at things than others, sure. In every aspect of life. But there is a lot of like keyboard head-slamming that people don't see when they get a pretty little paperback in their hands.

Isabel (08:53):
Oh, 100%. And I think it's funny too is I thought I had a pretty good process. I was like, you know what? It's okay that I hate drafting. It's okay that my book, my kind of draft two is typically almost a full rewrite. Like that's just my process and it works and it's fine. But then when I had to write my sequel, This Coven Won't Break. I had to write like I wrote a book and then threw it away three times. I wrote it from scratch four times.

Megan (09:21):
Oh wow.

Isabel (09:21):
Um, and that was such like a tough experience. Like it was so hard to have to like write a book and realize nothing about it worked, throw it away and just try something completely different. Um, and I decided that I never wanted to do that again. Um, so I was, okay, I'm going to figure out a way to write a book where like, I mean, it's always going to need revision.

Isabel (09:42):
Like, you can't get around that, but I want it to be able to write books where at least the first draft had real solid bones to it and it wouldn't have to be just completely thrown away.

Megan (09:51):
Yeah. I did your laptop survive that process of rewriting four times. Did it ever go flying out the window?

Isabel (09:59):
Oh my God. It was something, it was simple and I had written, so I wrote like I wrote one draft, um, and I threw it away and then I wrote a second draft and threw it away. And then the third draft was sort of like, I took a little couple of things from those first two drafts and then wrote it. And then I was like, okay, well this one has to be good enough to at least get me into the editing process. So I sent it to my editor and she very kindly, um, wrote back and had a letter that basically boiled down to absolutely none of this works. Um, please try again.

Isabel (10:37):
Yeah. That was, that was, uh, what was a good moment for my ego is right. She was definitely not wrong. And, um, it was also really helpful and she had really good advice. Um, and basically what we ended up doing was I kinda made what had turned into her as the end of the book. Um, which also the book was very, very dark, which was probably because I wrote it when I, my at the time day job was sort of imploding around me. So I was trying to write while just like the worst time of my professional career was happening. So a lot of um, despair ended up in the book and it didn't need to be there. Um, but we made the mid, the ending the mid point. And that helped me figure out how to actually build an interesting story because it turns out sequels are really hard.

Megan (11:22):
Sequels, sequels are so hard. They are, it's, it's a different beast altogether. And then the last book in a series is like a whole nother ball game that just makes the sequel look like easy. Like the farther in you get, the harder it is.

Isabel (11:45):
And this was hard, too, because it was a sequel, but it's also a series ender. It's just duology. And then you know, and when you're writing you of, you know, our first book, you throw everything in and do you want to make sure that it has, you know, big stakes and everything and then you have to write a book two and you're like, I have to do even bigger stakes now? I have to actually defeat the bit like the big, big deal and how do I do that? So that was part of it. As I had it, I never had a clear vision of like how to beat the villains until that fourth draft where I had my editor helping me kind of brainstorm and what her thing, her big note that really kind of opened my brain was, she was like, I think you need an additional bigger villain than who you think the villain is. And I was like, Oh, okay. And that helped me actually get to the right story. But no, that's okay.

Megan (12:34):
That's one of the really like interesting things about having a traditional publisher and having an editor who you yourself are not employing. And so I, I started in trad publishing. I dodged right out of there. I went the full indie route. And so how has your traditional publishing journey been? Like obviously it was very helpful to you to have this awesome editor on your side, like helping you figure out your way through this labyrinth for the book two. But what has your experience been like for the people who are considering whether they should submit to traditional or go more indie routes? What have the big moments for you in traditional publishing been?

Isabel (13:17):
Yeah, so I mean definitely having a good editor is a huge, huge benefit of traditional publishing. Um, you know, I had revised my first book, a ton of my own. I had two different agents I revised with my first agent had left the industry, so I had change agents sort of partway through that process. And then I still had two big rounds of edits. And so it's really, especially for me, um, who, somebody who's doesn't have, um, sort of like a natural gift for really compelling, interesting plots. Um, so to have somebody who kind of like , in a way that I answer to rather than her answering to me where she kind of pushes me like you need, you know, you can do better, you know, and push us to be as good as they can. So, you know, I've grown a ton as a writer kind of from that sort of pressure.

Isabel (14:05):
Maybe it has a negative connotation, but it is sort of a pressure of you want to please your editor and do a good job and um, and then thereby, hopefully then please readers and give them a really good reading experience. Um, so that's been huge. And then also just as soon as I knew I wanted to publish, it was always my dream to be able to walk into Barnes and noble and see my book on the shelf. Um, and when my book published by publisher never told me or didn't give me a heads up, but when I went to Barnes and noble, they had actually, um, placed the book in one of those sort of like tables at the front where the, the rack. So when I walked in there was just like a ladder of my books right in the front of the store. And that was like the coolest thing. So I didn't want to, wasn't expecting it. And it was really cool.

Megan (14:53):
That's amazing. That... having the nice little display is so cool. And I think that you bring up a really good point of, there is a lot of value. Even though, you know, a huge amount of the market is going indie. And I love being indie, I wouldn't have been able to do what I'm doing right now if I hadn't had my, you know, five or six years in trad publishing because I did learn so much. And so I think for people who are starting out, even if they may want to be in the, eventually there is something to be said for testing the waters with agents and going trad just so you can learn what's marketable by the big companyies So you know how to deal with that. And that's, it's a, it's a great lesson there. My first editor was like, "Oh honey, okay, here's what we're gonna do." And I like, I don't think I would be half the writer. I am without her. So it's amazing that it has delivered so much value to you. That's fantastic.

Isabel (15:54):
And it's been great too because I do actually also do some indie publishing under a different pen name. Um, so I am a little bit in that like adult urban fantasy world, um, co-write with a friend. Um, and I think the reason that we're able to do that and we can kind of put out, you know, so the way we work, you know, we're slow for by indie standards simply because I have to write those books in between traditional deadlines and my day job. Um, but basically what we do is like, I'll, I mean, we work together, we plot together, I'll draft the book in like four to six weeks. He edits it and I edit it. It goes to a copy editor and then it's, you know, put out with us so much quicker than traditional. But I think the only reason we can do that and put out a high quality product is because I know we both kind of cut our teeth in the traditional worlds.

Megan (16:43):
It's valuable. And I love that you have a separate pen name for it. So you can have like your two different identities. And one thing that I love about your pen name is that your books are YA fantasy that our LGBT community base. And I think that that's so important and so cool because it's from what I've seen, and I'm not an expert in any way, but the market for that is getting bigger. It's popping up more and more in my searches. You're finding more LGBT friendly, more LGBT based books for teens. But what has your experience been writing for that market?

Isabel (17:25):
Yeah. Um, so I, it took, when I kind of stumbled into, you know, writing, um, books for queer teens and part of that is I just kept writing books and they just kept getting gayer, and then all of a sudden I went like, Oh, Hey, there's a reason that I'm writing these books. Um, so like reading also kind of helped me come out and then then coming out and you know, dating my now wife and so that all fed into me writing and being able to revise the books to really reflect that experience. Um, so then when I went into publishing in that space, um, I don't know, it's just funny the way that life works out. You know, if had asked me five, six years ago, or not five years, I had been out for five years, but if you asked me 10 years ago, I, you know, wouldn't have known I wanted to write.

Isabel (18:11):
I didn't know that I was queer. Um, you know, and I wanted to work on like a college campus and now like writing has brought me out. I met my wife, I now, not only am I writing for up peer team, they actually work at an LGBTQ center. Um, all that whole life is changed. It's so weird. Um, but the actual like publishing process in terms of then that market, um, I mean I have so far, I have had, a really good experience. I think I kind of hit into the market right as there was this big shift. Um, you know, so in 2016 when I was getting an agent, um, and we still see this sometimes, um, but back then it was very much, well books about queer girls don't sell. We don't, we know, but we can't really buy that cause they never saw it.

Megan (18:58):
That's horrible.

Isabel (18:59):
Um, yeah. So I never, I never bumped up on that in terms of rejections. And I think because of my book was kind of hitting the kind of agent market, quote/unquote, when I was trying to get an agent right. That was like really shifting. Um, cause I got an agent with the very first, um, DV pit, um, on Twitter, which is a pitch contest for diverse voices. Um, so I think I kinda missed some of that, but that definitely played into me. You know, as I was writing and revising and when I was on submission to editors, I was always thinking like, okay, is this going to sell? Everybody always says that, you know, these books don't sell. And then it's, you know, if I do sell, you know, am I not going to get as much money cause they just, devalue these books.

Isabel (19:44):
Um, and thankfully I don't think I've really like personally run into that issue. I think, you know, my publisher really values the work that I do. Um, I've had a pretty good response, you know, I mean, I don't read reviews anymore. Um, I did before I became out and then the book actually came out and I was like, Oh, I can't read these anymore. Um, but I think it's different. It's funny when my book was just out to like bloggers and stuff and it was sort of just the advanced review copies. I could read reviews and they didn't bother me whether they were good or bad. But once the book was out and just your average reader was reviewing and I was like, Oh, this is, this space is absolutely not for me. I cannot be here.

Megan (20:26):
Goodreads is brutal. Goodreads is so brutal.

Isabel (20:28):
It is, and I have seen, you know, um, I have seen the occasional like, Oh, this book isn't realistic cause there's too many, you know, gay people in this book, there's too many [indiscernible] in this.

Isabel (20:40):
But I was like, buddy, like eighty percent of people they know are queer, like, like I don't know what to tell you. Um, so I have seen some of that, but for the most part I've gotten a really good reception. Um, I've had people from teenagers up to, I had a woman email me after reading my book. I think she said she was in her sixties and she found my book and she was like, Oh, I wish I'd had this when I was a teen. And um, so it's been, that's been, I think the best part is, you know, really reaching like... I think the book is for everybody, but for the book to really reach those queer readers is like, for me the biggest thing. Um, and even just like I said, I work at an LGBTQ center, and a few of my teens there have read the book. And so when they would read it, read it, and come in and they talk about it, that was, I was thinking of their teens that I know and adore. So for them to like it, I was like, Oh yeah,

Megan (21:34):
Well, representation is so important. And especially in those formative years where if you're not having an easily accessible story that truly relates to your life and you're not having to like twist the characters in the plot to try and match your expectations or who you are, then it's really hard for teenagers if they don't have those role models in the kinds of art that they like to absorb. So I think, I think that's amazing that the publishing community is accepting it more. And so you said you had people from teens to their fifties come up to you. Have there been any really cool reader interactions? Any deep and meaningful moments with anyone?

Isabel (22:20):
Yeah, um, I think probably one of the coolest things that happened, um, was I had, so I was actually at work at my day job. Um, and um, we had a teen come in who I'd never met before. Um, she was coming in to see us for the first time. Um, and I was showing her around our center and I was like, Oh, we have this new library of books. Um, we have an LGBTQ kind of library. And I had put out a call to the community actually when I first got this job, cause they originally had like four YA books at this library. And I was like, Oh. And then it's because it's something that's, it's a nonprofit. We don't have a lot of money, so I can't just go buying books. So everything we have in the library that has been donated to us.

Isabel (23:02):
So I put out a call and I was like, you know, people, um, you know, Twitter, the book community, like we need books. And so we now have two full shelves of queer way LGBTQ YA, um, for them to choose them. So I was showing this girl, um, you know the stuff and she goes, Oh, you know what book you should add to your library? You should add These Witches Don't Burn to your library. I was like, funny story. I actually wrote that book. Um, and just like to see her eyes get huge. And that was like a really cool moment of one having basically a stranger be like, Oh, Hey, this book is awesome. And then you're like, Oh my God, I wrote that book. Like out of body kind of experience.

Megan (23:47):
That's amazing. Now clearly you've had a lot of success. You have two pen names going on, you have readers recommending your own book to you, which is super cool. How would you talk to, if we have new writers who are just starting out, how would you tell them to handle the setbacks that come back, that come even with the most successful author, there are always, you know, going to be those drafts that your editor bounces back to you and says, no.

Isabel (24:14):
Well yeah. Um, you know, I think, well I guess maybe the funny answer is, uh, go to music school and get critiqued every week for four years and then to get really good at dealing with setbacks and critiques all the time.

Megan (24:30):
I feel the same way because of being an actor in a room at rehearsal and they're like, these are the list of notes of things you did wrong. And everyone's there. And they're all listening to it. And then 9:00 AM the next morning you're back in rehearsal with the same people who know how much you suck now. So, it really thickens your skin.

Isabel (24:46):
yeah. Well, and it is funny cause we know when I was writing music in college, like it was literally we had a class that was every other week and every class you had to share what you were working on and get feedback and then you had to bring it back in two weeks having made changes. I think that's part of the reason why I like revision is because I spent so long like being taught to like, okay take that and I'll make it better. Um, so I think it was probably why I like revision cause it's, you know, taking what you have and getting it to kind of as close to your idealized version as possible. Um, but I think for people, um, who want to, you know, get into writing is whatever, however you can do it. Um, you know, get used to getting feedback and taking critique.

Isabel (25:33):
Whether that's because you're, you know, posting fanfiction on Wattpad and getting feedback, whatever, you know, or you're going to a critique group every week. Um, just get practice taking that feedback and taking that, you know, rejection because rejection never stops. Like, you know, since I have had my book published, I have had, you know, the time where my editor says, throw that book away and write a new one. Basically I have had, um, I had a middle grade novel that we submitted and then, um, just never found a home. So...

Megan (26:08):
That does happen.

Isabel (26:08):
Yeah. Um, and then, you know, even if you, every book you write sells, um, I may not sell as many copies as you want. Once it's published, you're gonna, you're guaranteed to have some readers who just hate it and think it's trash. Um, there are definitely people who think my books are absolute garbage and that's fine. It's just not for them.

Megan (26:32):
And sometimes the bad reviews are, are good 'cause they help steer other people away who would not be happy with your book. So in addition to all of your writing, you're podcasting now, is that correct?

Isabel (26:45):

Megan (26:45):
So what is your podcast about?

Isabel (26:48):
Yeah, so the podcast is publishing explained. Um, and basically what happens there is I explain it to my wife does not work in publishing and she's not a, she reads, which is not really a book person. Um, she's more of a scientist type. Um, and I, you know, we've been together going on five years, um, and I've been, you know, involved in writing that whole time. And even so she's still really has no idea how publishing works and it isn't really bizarre world. A lot of things that makes you would think, Oh, this probably works like this. That would make sense. That's rational. That's not how publishing works. Um, so every, every week I explain, um, another step on the publishing process to her and then she just kind of sits there and goes, "But... Why?"

Isabel (27:41):
So that is basically what it is. So we are still in the early days, we've got three episodes out. Um, the first episode we talked about kind of the, the pros and cons of, you know, Indian versus traditional. And I obviously I do both. And I think there's definitely a value to both. So we kind of walk through the different ways. And right now we're sort of working our way through how, um, publishing on the trad side works with what agents do and how do you get an agent and put a submission look like and all that stuff.

Megan (28:09):
That's very cool. So what are some of the biggest misconceptions you've found about writing and in searching for these holes of what people don't know?

Isabel (28:17):
Yeah, so there's a lot of things. I think one of the big ones is money. People assume that if you have a book deal, you were all of a sudden the super wealthy.

Megan (28:27):
They really do!

Isabel (28:30):
It's like, no when I do school visits, but do some school visits. Um, which is part of the thing I love about writing way and being traditionally published. It kind of gives you the creds to go into schools and talk to kids. Um, but I tell them, talk to the kids about like, you know, how much money do you think you make on a book? And they throw out all these numbers and then I say, "So for hardcover, which sells for about $17, I get 10%, that means I get a dollar and 70 cents every time someone buys a book." And they're like, "that's it?!" And that's obviously the highest that we earn. And you know, I think on a paperback I make like 40 cents or something and they're like, "Oh my gosh!" So, um, that's fun to talk through with people and also just explaining, you know, the, I'm looking forward to doing a podcast episode on, um, like when you actually get paid with an advance and what an advanced actually means.

Isabel (29:25):
Um, people assume that you just get like tossed. Let's say that's a year, one of the lucky people who got, you know, a hundred thousand dollars for your book, which almost never happens these days. You just get a hundred thousand dollars. You don't just get that money. Like, you know, that's, that money is going to come apart, you know, maybe four years if it was a multi book deal or something. Um, so when I do that math or people are like, Oh, so it's like we might make like 10 grand a year or something? And I'm like, If you're lucky, you know, that doesn't even cover my rent for a year.

Megan (29:58):
It's definitely such a strange little world and it's weird because even people who aren't readers like you know books. You know what books are. You went through school with books and then the actual how of they get to people. People just don't, there's so much disconnect, which is weird. And it's even with indie where I have more control, there are so many things where people are like, "Oh, see you're just gonna ____?" No, no. I'm not just going to make Amazon make a TV show of this. Yes, I understand the book is sold on Amazon.

Megan (30:33):
No, there's not. Amazon's not making an Amazon prime TV show of this. That what?

Isabel (30:40):
Yeah, that's a lot is noise and you should, you should. You know why you should translate it into French. I'm like, well, I don't speak French, so someone in France needs to buy the rights to my book, I can't just make that happen. I would love to have a TV show. I can't just "poof" and make that a reality. Um, that's really funny. I also think another big common misconception for sort of like people who aren't at all involved in the business side. Um, so if someone's like, Oh, I have an agent now, they're like, cool when's your book come out? And the getting an agent and getting a book deal or different things and then it's like, okay, I got a book deal! They're like, awesome. What can I go to the store and get it? And it's like, Ooh, two years, two years from now. Well, don't understand like why books take so long to produce in like the traditional sphere. Um, especially cause people, if you look at indie, he can, you know, write and edit and put out a book relatively quickly. Um, and then traditional, like I sold the book, well, I'll tell you, but in 20 years it's very dense.

Megan (31:43):
And so much can happen in two years. Who's to say if it'll actually be released.

Isabel (31:46):
Right? Right?

Megan (31:48):
It's so strange. So where could people find your podcast and your books?

Isabel (31:56):
Yeah. So, um, you can basically find everything on my website, It has, um, the books. It also that we'll have links to all the podcast episodes because we're still early. We're, we're still working on getting into iTunes and stuff. Um, but it'll take you where you can listen online and it is on Spotify. Um, but it's, it's coming. Um, but yes, will get you all the things. And then I'm also on Twitter at isasterling and then Instagram at isa_sterling.

Megan (32:32):
Very cool. I love, I love how the platforms make you have the slightly different name. So is there anything else you'd like to share with people quick before we hop into the final four questions?

Isabel (32:40):
Um, I think that's just about everything. I will just say if you are somebody who likes your YA with some queer witches, These Witches Don't Burn is out now. This Coven Won't Break is out May 19th. And there's also a prequel novella that's ebook only that is actually out, uh, April 28.

Megan (33:03):
Amazing. You have a very busy spring right now.

Isabel (33:05):
Oh yes. A lot.

Megan (33:07):
Thank you for taking the time to join me. Alright, so for our final four questions, if you could only recommend one book, which would you choose?

Isabel (33:16):
So I think right now in the world that we're in, I would say red, Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston because it's just a book that makes you just feel good and happy and there's so much romance and sweetness and I love it.

Megan (33:30):
That's amazing. I, we all need a little bit of sweetness in our lives right now.

Isabel (33:35):

Megan (33:35):
Okay. So what song can you count on to pumped up--to pump you up, lift your spirits? What, what music do you love having in your life?

Isabel (33:43):
It's so funny. I'm not good at like, even though I was have a music degree, I'm so tune with me, but I do currently have a Spotify playlist that is Emo AF and it was just like songs from the early two thousands like my chemical romance and stuff. So that has been my current life playlists while I've been working.

Megan (34:03):
You know, sometimes you need that like early 2000 music. It gets you through. There's nothing wrong with that. I have a lot of friends who are on a 90's binge right now. So if you had to choose a tagline for your life, what would you want the tagline of your life to be? Uh, so another one, this is just so hard.

Isabel (34:25):
Again, I'm a writer, but I can't do taglines. It's, it's silly.

Megan (34:27):
Taglines are the worst. So I get it.

Isabel (34:29):
I would love though to like leave a legacy of just like writing tons of like queer girl, a paranormal way. Like if that could be like the thing that I leave behind, that'd be cool.

Megan (34:40):
That would be amazing. And such a huge contribution to an area that, you know, is, it's on the up and coming, it needs more and you're doing so much to help. And I think that's great.

Isabel (34:49):
I want witches, and vampires, and ghosts and werewolves--I want to do all the things.

Megan (34:53):
Amazing, and what is the most inspiring thing anyone has ever said to you?

Isabel (35:03):
Well, I don't know if it's inspiring, but it does just make me laugh. Um, my grandfather, before he passed away, so he, I don't think he ever actually read my book. Um, but he always used to tell me that if I really wanted to, you know, write some cool stuff, I should write nonfiction because nonfiction is stranger than fiction. And I don't know why, but for whatever reason that just made me want to write the most ridiculous fiction I could think of. Like, Oh, real world's more interesting? Well, I have to make fiction that actually makes sense. The real world doesn't have to make sense, but you know what?

Isabel (35:38):
I'm going to write witches now I'm gonna write some vampires. Um, so that always made me laugh cause he was, he was, it was, he was very proud of me, but he also was just like fiction who reads that?

Megan (35:48):
Millions and millions of people.

Isabel (35:51):
He was a funny man.

Megan (35:54):
Amazing. I love that so much. And I love the, the little bit of defiance that comes with it, that the little like, yeah, I'm going to do it. That's exactly how I am. And I feel like a lot of authors are like that because there is so much hardship that a lot of us who like make it to the publishing phase are the ones who are, like you said, I couldn't, and now I will, and that's--

Isabel (36:15):
"Just you wait!"

Megan (36:15):
Yeah, it's great. And it's one of my favorite part about... Parts about the community is that as hard as it gets sometimes there is this like "never say die" like group of people who just keep plunging forward. And I, I love it. I love it so much. Well, thank you so much for joining us on A Book and A Dream. I am going to make sure that all of the links to your website and your books and your podcasts are all with the episode. And yes, congratulations. And good luck on your upcoming releases.

Isabel (36:44):
Thank you.

Megan O'Russell

Fantastic Worlds. Unlikely Heroes.

Megan O'Russell


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