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An Interview with Julie Elise Landry: Author of Bless the Skies

Julie Elise LandryJulie Elise Landry grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana, and became something resembling an adult in Monroe, Louisiana. She wrote her first book in the fourth grade, stealing heavily from The Hobbit and “Ella Enchanted,” but learned not to steal when her mother grinned knowingly at the draft.

In 2013, she graduated from the University of Louisiana at Monroe with a Master of Arts in English focused in creative writing. Her life has been an amalgamation of children’s stories, musicals, and violent horror films since the eighth grade, when she watched “The Ring” by herself on Halloween night. (She does not suggest any thirteen-year-olds follow her example).

Landry published the dark fantasy novel Bless the Skies in 2015. In 2017, she published “Foggy Road,” an interactive fiction game set in the same world.

Tell us about your book.

In Bless the Skies, a cast of characters struggles with toxic relationships of all kinds—obsessive, destructive, jealous, dependent—and the reader follows their descent into an increasingly tragic stalemate. Bless the Skies is about struggle—against our enemies, against our gods, and against ourselves.

The barest idea for this book came from the mind of a brooding teenage girl. As I grew, the core of the plot and the basic personalities of the characters remained unchanged, but my attitudes toward those characters and their actions transformed year after year, affecting the overarching frame and theme of the story.

Why did you want to write a book?

I cannot remember a time when writing a book wasn’t my chief goal in life. I’ve always loved stories, and I’ve always told myself stories. As soon as someone showed me a keyboard, I learned how to type well enough to turn my dreams and daydreams into stories. I wrote my first “book” when I was thirteen years old!

Why did you choose to self-publish?

I chose to self-publish rather than pursue traditional routes because I figured self-publishing has almost become a necessary first-step toward a career as an author. I think it’s almost expected that aspiring authors will cut their teeth in self-publishing. I also wanted to know how much work it would take and where my weaknesses would be as an individual. That way, if I ever attempt traditional publication, I’ll better recognize my own limitations and blind spots.

Would you self-publish again?

I’m already planning to self-publish a sequel to Bless the Skies, and I’d be happy to self-publish again in the future. The experience gives me complete control over the final product, and though it’s certainly more work—especially in the realm of self-marketing—I appreciate the opportunity to put my work out there, to succeed or fail of my own accord.

Bless the SkiesWhat do you think are the main pitfalls for indie writers?

Indie writers have less access to funds for marketing, and a strong marketing presence can “make” or “break” the success of a book. The only way readers will buy a book is if they hear about it, and most times, it costs money to tell them. Authors also tend to spend as little as possible on the front end, and it’s important to hire a professional editor and a professional cover designer. As good as your content may be, poor editing or poor design can turn readers away.

What tips can you give other authors looking to self-publish?

Do your research, and do it early. Schedule your publication date to give you the most opportunity to enter contests—if you publish at the wrong time of year, you may exclude yourself from some contests. It’s also important to start building an audience as early as possible, long before publishing the book. Some marketing opportunities, like NetGalley and Goodreads Giveaways, will also be more useful to you before you publish your book. The more you read about self-publishing before hitting “publish,” the better off you’ll be!

As a writer, what is your schedule? How do you get the job done?

“When I can.” I work full-time, and I’m also a freelance writer and editor, so I tend to view writing as “stealing time” for my book. Lately, I’ve decided that I have to arrange my day around my priorities instead of trying to force my priorities into my day. So now, I write first thing in the morning when I wake up, because it’s the most important thing to me and my future.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I write another sentence. That’s always the first step. Sometimes, that step takes me longer than it should, because I forget it’s that easy! But the only way to overcome writer’s block is to force yourself to write one more sentence, and one more sentence after that. I try to remember that I can always edit, improve, or remove anything I don’t like once I’ve gotten it on the paper. I can’t work with words that aren’t there.

Why did you write about this particular subject?

I devised this story in my head when I was fourteen years old, and I kept rehashing the story for more than a decade. I wrote a primitive draft in high school, revised that primitive draft, and kept toying with it until I developed the mythology that snapped everything into place. Over a decade later, I turned back to the story and wrote the first draft of the book in just a couple months.

What’s next for you as an author?

I’m writing the sequel to Bless the Skies! It’s taking a long time, because it’s much longer, but I’ve been making excellent progress. I’m also excited because the story’s proving to be even… well, darker! For readers who appreciated or enjoyed Bless the Skies, it’s going to be a well-received continuation of the story.

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