A Conversation with
by Marissa Campbell
Marissa: Your bio speaks to being a singer, actor, and photographer. How did that path lead you into writing?
Heather: I’m a graduate of the Ryerson Theatre program and a member of Canadian Actors’ Equity. Singing was always my first love, followed closely by drawing, reading, and writing (all neck and neck), and I always knew that someday I would write a book. My university English professor tried to convince me to switch from the acting program because he felt my true calling was writing!
I worked for several years in the Toronto theatre scene, but when I married and had children that life became more difficult and I ‘retired’. I keep my hand in the game by directing community theatre. Once my youngest was in school full time, I knew it was finally time to write my book.
Prior to that, I won a national award in digital art and that led to work as a photographer, which eventually segued into work as a book cover designer. I became immersed in the self-publishing scene as a designer first. I had a prominent YA agent, but we parted ways amicably when we realized my book was too niche for traditional publishing. It was perfect for indie publishing though, and I was already educated and ready.
Marissa: I love that your books play with Arthurian legend. What drew you to that topic/genre?
Heather: My mom is from Ireland, and I grew up immersed in fairy tales and British mythology. One of my most treasured possessions was an illustrated book of Arthurian legends, and I guess it just stayed with me. The line between fantasy and reality often felt blurred in my family. I remember quite clearly being in Belfast, and my mom’s cousin—who was an author and known authority on Irish history—dragging me around the countryside looking for a certain fairy well, which was believed to have healing properties, so he could use its water to cure his mother’s blindness. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, but it felt so real in the moment!
Marissa: Congratulations on becoming an Amazon Best Seller! What sets your books apart?
Heather: Thanks! For the Arthurian series, I believe it resonates with people because of my ability to make unexpected connections between various world mythologies and even urban legends. I believe I present them in a way that is truthful to their origins, but twists them into something new. While that series is categorized as YA, it really crosses over to adult fantasy and urban fantasy. My most recent series is aimed at the paranormal cozy mystery audience.
Marissa: From writer to Indie Publishing champion, what drew you to helping others navigate the waters of self-publishing?
Heather: I just find it all so much fun! If someone can score a million dollar deal in trad pub, that’s fantastic, and I applaud them. But I come from other Arts disciplines where there is no shame or stigma to working independently, and it suits my personality. Over the past few years, however, I’ve seen far too many people go into self-publishing without researching it sufficiently or arming themselves with the right tools. I started a small press which published a cookbook last year, and an upcoming children’s picture book, but it’s not really my intention to publish others. I just want people to go into this venture with their eyes open, because while great rewards are very possible, it can also go very wrong if you’re not prepared!
Marissa: Your covers are compelling and represent their genre well. What motivated you to pursue cover design?
Heather: Again, it goes back to the multi-disciplinary nature of my background. My mother and grandmother are accomplished artists, and the lavishly illustrated fairy tale books I grew up with were huge influences. As a teen, I even dreamed of becoming a fantasy cover artist like Michael Whelan, but I had to make a decision about which path to follow in university, and I chose theatre. It’s so amazing that this new indie publishing world has allowed me to achieve not one, but two of my childhood dreams!
Marissa: You have a Master Class coming up in March for the WCDR. What will writers take away from your workshop?
Heather: The workshop assumes that they already know how to write a good book. Writers will take away with them a blueprint for getting their book ready for publication, through publication, to how you keep the book afloat in a sea of content afterwards. The main focus is marketing for the indie author, but marketing your book begins with the choices you make long before you hit the publish button. Beyond that, I’m happy to digress into whatever area of indie publishing the attendees have concerns about or are stuck on.
Marissa: What three key pieces of advice would you give writers on their path to publication?
Heather: Whether you are interested in traditional or indie publishing, you need to understand that at its heart, all publishing is a business. While our art is important, putting a book out into the world is a matter of navigating an entire ecosystem that is based on one or another business model.
Education, education, education. Whichever path you choose, be smart. Attend conferences, network with other authors and industry professionals. With the internet, writers now have no excuse not to be fully educated on the realities of their chosen profession.
Be subjective about your art while you are creating it, but learn to be more objective once you are sending it out into the world. Don’t think you can create your own cover if you’re not a designer, or format your book if you know nothing about formatting. Hire whatever professionals you need to do the things you cannot do professionally.
Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary act!
We want you! Whether you’re ready to call yourself a writer, or if your career as a writer is already established, you can benefit from being part of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR). We have plenty to offer those who live in the Durham Region, but if you don’t, hang on before clicking away! While we are known for our RoundTable meetings (in Whitby, Ontario), there are many other benefits to being a member of our writing community.
Check out this 4-minute video of a RoundTable meeting!
Every month, we celebrate with a RoundTable meeting at the Centre For Food (Durham College) Whitby, and we love everything that encompasses: writing, books, sales, contests, raffles, workshops, announcements, speakers, celebrations, networking, workshops, blue pencils…and breakfast.
Got a pricy retreat or workshop you’d like to take to develop your craft? Members can apply for our yearly grants & scholarships, with substantial sums awarded to a variety of writers, from beginner to advanced!
Looking to develop your craft? We sponsor quality one-day workshops on a variety of topics, and every month, RoundTable attendees can also register for one of our mini-workshops. We organize one-on-one and pitch sessions with some of the best industry professionals (editors and agents). Of course, these are at a discount to members! Browse our events/workshops calendar to take advantage of what else is available to you.
Attend one of our events, such as Words of the Season, where you can go up to the mic and read your work aloud, or simply be part of the audience to enjoy the show. Participate in literary events, like the Word on the Street, where we have a booth every year. Check out our events/workshops calendar to see what else is going on.
Keep up to date with our literary newsletter, The Word Weaver. Members receive their copies directly to their inboxes and can pitch to contribute articles—whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned writer, your voice can find a spot in our newsletter!
If you’re looking to keep up to date with what’s going on with the organization, to find out about writing-related events going on, or to get news updates about our members, sign up for our informational newsletter The Buzz! (Enter your email at the top of the sidebar to sign up for this free WCDR newsletter.)
Obtain feedback on your work: Meet critique partners and/or beta readers at meetings or online in the forums; register for blue-pencil sessions at the RoundTable meetings; find a writing circle; register for a pitch session or one-on-one with industry professionals; read your work at Words of the Season; find quality, reputable editors.
These are just a few of our membership benefits. To find out more, please visit our membership page.
We want you to know we do welcome writers in all stages of their craft. If you’re looking to get motivated to take your writing more seriously, give us a try! If you’ve published before and you’d like opportunities to network with fellow authors, give us a try! If you’re a freelance writer, a nonfiction writer, or a blogger, give us a try!
Meet the board of directors of the WCDR. After all, they all started out as members–some even as quite recent members of the organization. The Writers’ Community of Durham Region encourages writers at all levels; offers opportunities for support, education and networking; and promotes the value of writers and writing. And that just happens to be our mission statement.
Questions? All are welcome! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org