STEPHANEE KILLEN: I AM A WOMAN WHO TALKS TO THE MOON
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Stephanee Killen is a poet, entrepreneur, and the author of Buddha Breaking Up: A Guide to Healing from Heartache and Liberating Your Awesomeness. She has edited work for numerous authors, including books appearing on The New York Times Best Sellers list, and published articles in elephant journal and Huffington Post. In 2014, she was a juried poet for the Columbus Arts Festival and is a regularly performing poet based in Columbus, Ohio. In her spare time, she paints pictures, sips Ginger tea, and enjoys cosmic jokes.
This is the official introduction part. The unofficial is that our next guest’s answers are really cool. I am sure Stephanee will visit Land of Books some other time for her next release.
– Stephanee, what is your book Buddha Breaking Up about?
– Buddha Breaking Up is a modern-day spiritual guide for how to embrace dramatic, life-altering change and use it as a means of rediscovering the Self. I worked with a lot of Zen principles to provide practical techniques for dealing with a broken heart, battling the wounded ego, managing anger, creating better relationships, and finally, loving and valuing yourself so you can reach a place of acceptance and grace in your new life.
At its core, it’s really a book about dealing with heartache. While the primary focus is on healing from a breakup, it can truly be used as a guide to deal with loss in general—even the loss of our illusions about life. Plus, people tell me it’s actually pretty funny. Getting people to laugh at themselves and the absurdities of life is also definitely part of the point!
– How did you decide to write the story?
– I began writing Buddha Breaking Up without realizing that it was going to become a book. In the beginning, I was merely documenting my journey, my own search for peace and meaning in what had happened after my partner and I separated. I wrote constantly about what I was feeling and the things I discovered, having developed a desperate need to put myself under the microscope—to examine what I was experiencing and WHY. I researched the very real physical withdrawal we go through. I searched for tools I could use to ride out the most intense period of what psychologists call “shattering.” This included meditation, using music to impact my mood, learning the best ways to battle my ego, facing my loneliness and depression, dealing with the crushing disappointment and anger I felt, learning to question my thoughts and accept REALITY, and finally opening myself back up to the world. Essentially, I was charting my course to that state of grace I’d been longing to achieve.
When I was done, I realized that what I had written was the book I’d desperately wanted to read at the beginning of my breakup but could not quite find. All the books I read were either too light and funny (like putting cotton candy on a gunshot wound), or they were so serious and clinical and bossy that I wanted to throw them (or myself) out of a window. I felt like what I’d discovered was what I needed to know in order to heal, and then I simply wanted to share all the cool stuff I’d learned.
– What was the biggest challenge during the writing process?
– Putting everything together in a way that would feel cohesive and even humorous to the people reading it. I didn’t want to bash people over the head with a bunch of preachy-talk or “ten-steps to a new you” type of nonsense. I wanted anyone reading the book to relax with themselves. To permit what they were going through, whatever that might be. I wanted to make them feel like, “Yeah, this is a terrible thing that just happened. And it’s also perfectly okay to get a chuckle out of it while I’m down here on the floor crying my eyes out.” I wanted to create a safe space in which they could just Be. I wasn’t going to tell anyone “just get over it” or “see how easy it is if you just put your mind to it?” Blargh! That kind of senseless pseudo-compassionate babble doesn’t really help anyone, in my opinion.
– Tell us something more about your main character? Is it close to someone from your real life?
– Absolutely! It’s really me, and it’s really the person (or at least my as-honest-as-I-can-be-interpretation of the person) I was dealing with. I changed a few names to protect the anonymity of everyone but me, but it’s a pretty in-depth look at my experience. As embarrassing as some of that may be, I didn’t really feel like I could genuinely have a dialogue with an audience if I was coming at them from any kind of superior stance.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– It took me about a year to finalize the book, and maybe six months after that to get it published. I’d already been shopping it around before it was completed, so it didn’t take long after that.
– Did you expect such a positive feedback by the readers and how do you except the negative comments?
– The positive feedback has been wonderful! I really appreciate hearing from readers, and it’s very gratifying to hear that something I wrote has touched someone’s life, or made it a little bit easier for them to get through their own difficult experience. That’s all I’ve ever really hoped for with any of the things I write: to form a connection with someone where something useful is transmitted.
As for the negative feedback, I try to take it in stride. I don’t get a lot, actually. The one really bad review I did receive actually made me laugh (after I was done feeling bad). They said the book was “useless….common sense stuff.” I have a feeling they didn’t read very far. I thought to myself, Oh, the part that talks about Particle Physics as it relates to how we interact energetically with others in our relationships is common sense? If a reader is that badass, I can’t begrudge them for not liking the book! You just can’t let yourself take that stuff seriously. Not everyone is going to like your work.
– Who are you?
– Oh goodness! This is a hard question, because now I’m just going to list off a bunch of things that describe my personality, or that I do because I don’t really have words to describe myself without devolving into vocational labels or disjointed prose. That said: I am a woman who talks to the moon. I’m the rumble of passing trains. I’m a realist and romantic and on the rare days when the two merge, I glow like crazy. In other words: I am an entrepreneur and have run a successful business for the past fifteen years. I am a poet, author, artist, chronic overthinker, sometimes lovely, wildly absurd woman, and I drink a lot of Ginger tea.
– What are your writing habits?
– I can’t write with crappy pens. That’s about as far into a “habit” as I get—digging for my good pen. Otherwise, I am always writing or thinking about writing or reading so that I can write something better informed later. Whenever I say I have “writer’s block,” I only mean that I can’t write anything worth sharing. Not ever that I can’t actually write.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of the book?
– That depends on what my expectations are like! I am definitely happy that it is as popular as it is and gets such wonderful feedback even without a lot of promotion. It’s not enough to quit my day job and just crank out novels, but then again, that was never really my intention. There’s something I want to share with people about the “authentic self” in relationships, and that was my primary purpose for writing the book. Becoming a millionaire would be a happy side effect.
– What are you doing to promote your book in the best possible way?
– I like doing giveaways. It spreads the word quickly, and I’ve gotten really good results from that, as well as interviews and features. But the primary promotional point for me is usually when I write articles/blogs for online publications. People really connect with those and then many of them will search me out online and discover the book.
– When we will see your next novel?
– I’m still doing research! I’m hoping to have something ironed out by Fall of 2015. Then I can spend next winter writing. We’ll see!
– You are a professional editor. What are the top 3 pieces of advice that you would give to upcoming authors?
– As a professional editor, my advice would largely depend on what the author was trying to accomplish with their work. But the most general advice would be:
In the writing phase, don’t worry about anything else. Just write, write, write.
After the writing phase, you’re really going to want to fix what you just wrote. That means after you are done editing (assuming you intend to publish), you will want to hire a professional book editor. This can make an enormous difference in the final outcome. Just having “a friend who taught English” look it over isn’t good enough. Hire someone who knows the publishing industry.
Marketing/promotions is where we all get hung up. Once the book is done, the real work begins. Most authors/creative types aren’t also good at selling themselves. (Speaking from personal experience here.) Also, we’re a moody bunch! It’s a really good idea to get help, if you can, but you’re going to have to step outside of your safety zone a bit if you want to be successful. You’re going to have to (gasp!) engage other people.
– Do you thing that more and more writers will turn to self-publishing in the next years and how the industry will develop?
– Absolutely. The industry has really progressed and gotten a lot more sophisticated since the birth of print-on-demand publishing. It’s getting easier and easier to self-produce a book, but there are some pitfalls. Content quality is still the biggest hurdle. That doesn’t just mean writing something fantastic; it’s also about presentation. Most authors aren’t also editors and book designers. They want to do it all on a budget, so they cut corners with the pre-production work. A lot of self-publishing outlets offer services, but it’s not the same level of service you would get with a traditional publishing house, where you are assigned a team of people who actually know something about you and your work. There, they want to make your product look good because there is a lot at stake for them, too. PODs don’t really care how your book comes out! They make money based on volume regardless of quality, so personal attention is not their focus. That means it’s important for authors to admit where their limits are, and to understand that there is still an investment they have to make in the process if they want to do more than pass the book around to family and friends.
– What would be your reaction if you received, by courier, a nice red rose on Friday at 4:30 PM from anonymous person?
– My reaction would come in two parts (see above where I note that I’m both a realist and a romantic). For starters, I would be a little freaked out because I’m a very private person, and very very few people know my home address. I’d be on the phone to those people asking them to come clean so I don’t have to sleep with a taser next to my bed.
My second reaction would be, “Awww….how sweet.”
– If you could ask yourself one question in this interview, what would it will be? (Don’t forget to answer!)
Does everything have to make sense? -No.
Take a look at Steph’s book
Buddha Breaking Up: A Guide to Healing from Heartache & Liberating Your Awesomeness