S.E. Reed has been working at writing and getting published for a long time, and all her hard work is finally coming to fruition. Her YA debut releases July 2023, and her second YA novel is scheduled for release in August 2024. She also recently signed a three-book contract (!!) with an indie romance publisher. And she did all of this without an agent! Read on for more about S.E. and her newfound success in indie publishing.
Your YA debut, My Heart is Hurting, comes out soon. Can you tell us about it?
Sure! My book follows the story of Jinny Buffett, a fifteen year old girl from south Florida. She lives in crappy apartments in Hollywood with her mama, Crystal, who is a waitress at the Margaritaville resort during the day and a sex worker at night.
Throughout the course of the story, Jinny makes friends, reads books, learns to trust people, finds romance, and talks to ghosts!
Jinny Buffett is lonely…
She’s never had the comfort of a white picket fence with a loving family. Her subsidized apartment in Hollywood Florida echoes with the void of her dead Daddy, and the nights drag long into twilight while her Mama works the block outside the Margaritaville resort.
It’s idealistic Ms. Fleming, who’s brave enough to come knocking first. She wants to see Jinny rise up and use her ace scores to escape the wheel of poverty, convincing Jinny to start a school book club, where she finds the friends and boyfriend she never knew she needed.
But when her Mama spirals out of control and threatens her entire existence, it’s Jinny’s Everglade ancestors who arrive in a mist of magic, bringing the swamp and hope with them.
You also have another YA novel coming out in 2024. Amazing! What’s it like to be prepping for two book releases?
Working on multiple projects at the same time involves time management. In publishing, there’s a lot of “waiting.” So having two books preparing for release isn’t much different than having one. Each project goes through the same process, just at different times.
With my second project, Old Palmetto Drive, I know what to expect, which does take some of the pressure off. I’m hoping to build up a fan base from my first book to help propel the second book.
Both books are being published by Wild Ink, a small, independent publisher. Why did you decide to publish with Wild Ink?
I was fortunate to have several short stories selected by Wild Ink Publishing for their various anthology books. So I got to know their team through that process. I felt comfortable submitting my YA novels to them, because I already knew how great their editors and leadership were.
Tell me more about placing short stories in anthologies. Is this something you recommend for other writers?
Absolutely!! By building a relationship with a small publisher through my short story work, I was able to move to the front of the slush pile. Referrals and references can make a HUGE difference in this industry. I still sent a query letter! I included that my work had been featured in two of their books and how much I loved working with them. I think it’s important to sell yourself, not just the novel you are querying.
You mentioned in your interview on the podcast Author(ish) that you used to have an agent. Do you mind if I ask why you parted ways?
I had a literary agent from November of 2020 to November 2021. We went on sub with an early version of my book. But I wasn’t happy with the sub letters or the novel at that point, and I felt like I needed more from someone who was going to represent me. Waiting months for an email response is maddening. Feeling like your voice doesn’t matter– not okay! And then when you get an email and your character’s name is spelled wrong or you just don’t feel valued, why stay in that relationship?
Having no agent is better than having a bad one. Or so I’ve heard. I’m not trying to throw my previous agency under the bus, but we were not a good fit.
I’ve landed deals for these YA books on my own, and I just signed a three-book contract with an indie romance publisher who is launching a new sci-fi/fantasy romance imprint.
I think if I was to look for an agent again, it would be for foreign rights and audiobooks. That is something I cannot do for myself.
What’s your novel-writing (and revision) process like?
I’ve written ten books as a pantser. And now I’m writing a book as a plotter. I’ll tell you, plotting has sped up the first draft process for this particular novel… HOWEVER, this being my eleventh book also helps. It’s book 2 in a series, so again, that helps because I know the world and the characters really well.
Taking time to plan ahead and lay out the novel has been helpful. It’s like playing fortune teller. Only it’s me deciding what happens in my made-up world, creating a plan of attack– it’s all rather exciting.
My workload and number of projects is getting too big to just pants-it anymore. I would like a full-time career as a professional writer. Although writing is my passion, I do treat it respectfully and want to get the most out of my time in front of the screen.
You’ve been working at being traditionally published for a long time. What advice do you have for writers who are just starting out?
Don’t stop writing. My debut novel is actually my sixth book. My sophomore novel is my eighth book. I still work on the other books and projects too, because I will never give up on a story. What the market wants today, isn’t what the market will want tomorrow. So just because you wrote a teen vampire academy novel that no one will touch today, doesn’t mean that in a few years, a new generation of young people might want new and exciting books about that topic. Don’t write to the trends. Write what you love… and hold on to those babies until they are popular!!
Does being a mom help you write for young adults?
Holy Heck! My three kids are the CONSTANT source of my inspiration. My first book series (unpublished) was written about my three kids. The three main characters are on an adventure to save their world from dark magic…
Of course if it was real life, my kids might literally ward off evil just by arguing with it. Or bore it to death by squabbling with one another in front of it. Seriously though, having teenagers around is pure gold. I love my kids so much, and not just as my writing muses.
You’ve lived in all five regions of the United States — do you plan to set at least one novel in each one of them? How important is setting in your novels?
Honestly, I’ve never considered setting one of my novels in each region, but that is a really amazing idea!! Instead, I tend to have characters from all over the place. This gives my characters interesting points of view, because people do things differently depending on where you live.
I think setting is an important part of my novels, because I used the Everglades as a big source of inspiration for the two YA contemporaries being released by Wild Ink Publishing. Without living in South Florida, neither of these books could exist.
What’s next for you? (Besides two YA books coming out soon and a 3-book contract, of course.)
I’ve signed-on to co-author a book for Wild Ink Publishing with a friend, Amy Neilsen. The book is nonfiction and called Navigating the Wild World of Publishing: A Workbook for Indie and Self-Published authors…with chapters like: “I wrote a book! What the hell do I do now?” and “How to make a book trailer that rocks” and other fun things like that.
There’s space to write in the book, fill in the blanks, scribble, draw, whatever you like. Make it your own. It’s a very user friendly, probably even a YA appropriate book, designed to help authors hone their craft. So many books on the craft of writing are long, boring, and difficult to follow. Amy and I wanted to make something that was reflective of our personalities. Fun, happy, relaxed.
I like to think I have a sense of humor, and I’m pretty honest and real. So if my journey can help others, I’m willing to talk about it and share. We writers are not in competition with one another, despite what some people might think.
S.E. Reed has spent the last 20 years of her life moving around all five-regions of the United States which gives her a unique American perspective. Many of her pieces have a strong Southern theme, but she also dabbles in the strange, bizarre and fantastical.
Her work has been featured by Wild Ink Publishing, Parhelion Lit, The Writer’s Workout, Tempered Rune’s Press and Survival Guide for the 21st Century. She has won several YA writing contests and actively participates as a delegate for YA Hub on Twitter.
S.E. resides in Florida with her family– nestled between the swamps of the Everglades and the salt of the Atlantic Ocean. This summer she’ll be sitting in a lawn chair, working on her next novel and listening to EDM… (Ask her about her days as a DJ). Or she’ll be in the pool begging her kids not to get her hair wet.