Interview with Shelli Johannes, author of UNTRACEABLE + GIVEAWAY!

30 Nov

by Susan Dennard

You might have seen my book review for Untraceable on Sunday. If not, read it. This book is impressive–and its author, Shelli Johannes, is quite possibly even more impressive.

Why do I have such glowing praise for Shelli? Because she’s done something a lot of us are too scared to do: she has indie-published her debut novel.

But more importantly than that, Shelli has indie-published it right. She has approached it as a professional author who knows the industry, knows what readers want, and knows how to tell a damn good story.

If you want to hear more about her amazing and empowering journey, I suggest reading her blog series on it (which begins here). I was lucky enough to get an interview with Shelli about her publication process, and all I can say is: WOW. She is an inspiration to us all.

When you started writing Untraceable, what was the inspiration behind it?  A dream? A musical clip? Plain, old-fashioned brainstorming?

My husband came home one day from being in the remote woods for the weekend and said, “I was so far out–a terrorist camp could set up there and no one would ever know.”

The story started out called Grace Under Fire. And it was about terrorist cells in the wilderness (hides face from embarrassment). Years later, I got rid of the terrorist camp but kept Grace and the wilderness.

It actually came in the quarterfinals in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award of 2009. 1 of only 7 thrillers to make the list.

Wow–I did not know that about the Breakthrough Award! (Can’t say I’m surprised either ;)) And what a COOL way for a story to start…mine are always lame dreams, so I’m totally jealous.

What was the biggest challenge for you while writing UNTRACEABLE? 

Editing it. Back in 09, I remember agents HATING the terrorist angle but loving Grace and the overall setting (go figure :)) so I had to go back to the drawing board and rewrite the entire plot from scratch. I did that more than once. But that time was the hardest.

You’re taking a different, unique path for getting your book out there, and you’re really showing other writers how self-publish in a professional, and reader-focused manner. It’s obvious you care about your readers more than making some quick cash. When and why did you decide to indie-publish?

For a few reasons:

  1. I was tired of people telling me a contemporary thriller would not sell well to teens.
  2. I wanted to see if I could do it on my own and learn more about publishing process in general.
  3. I thought it would be fun to create my own thing my own way.

Because I was scared everyone would think I suck, I decided to blog about the process openly – the ups and the downs to see if I could help others decide if indie pubbing was right for them.

I also hear so much about the stigma of indie/self pubbing. I wanted to break through that barrier and create a high quality product I was proud of and show people that you can do it the right way.

Yeah, I think that stigma is starting to fade as more and more writers with high-quality stories take that route. All I can say is: GOOD FOR YOU! For having the courage and the determination to do this the “right way”.

Is there anything that, in hindsight, you wish you had done differently with UNTRACEABLE–either in the writing or publication process?

I’m having so much fun I wish I had done this a long time ago. I wish I had skipped all the unnecessary anxiety. But I believe everything happens for a reason and I am where I am supposed to be.

Too true–I’m a firm believer of that as well. What’s your next writing project? And do you think you’ll continue on the self-publication path with it?

I have a special edition of Untraceable coming out in Jan/Feb with a different ending. And I am putting out Grace 2 – called Uncontrollable early next summer.

Beyond that – I’m not sure. I have manuscripts that have almost been bought on my shelf. Who knows maybe I’ll pull another one out.

But I am writing a WIP that I would like to get an agent for down the road. I love the traditional pubbing process so I hope to do both someday when I am ready to jump back in the pit.

I think it’s so awesome that you’re interested in both approaches and that you want to try to tackle both. I would love to as well…one day…when I’m not so lazy.;) Honestly, though, writing all these books and self-promoting–it must take a lot of perseverance and hard work. What’s a typical writing day for you? 

I drop off my daughter at school around 8 and then hang with my son until I drop him off at preschool at 9. I spend about an hour on the Internet with emails, twitter, Facebook, catching up on blogs etc. I usually write from about 10-12ish. Then I catch up on emails again before I get my son at 1.

But this is not how it is all the time. Especially not right now.

Right now, I imagine your life is wrapped up in UNTRACEABLE promotion. In your spare time, though, what are you reading?

Just finished The Pledge by Kimberly Derting and Fracture by Megan Miranda.

And any final words of advice or inspiration? 

Don’t give up. Let go of you ego. And follow your heart.

Leave a comment below for a chance to win not only an ebook of Untraceable, but also a copy of Escape Velocity and an ARC of Promise the Night.

It’s open internationally, and we’ll announce our giveaway winner on FRIDAY! ALONG WITH OUR BIG NEWS!

And Monday’s giveaway winner (for a copy of PRETTY BONES) is

Nicole Steinhaus!

Email us at letthewordsflowblog (at) gmail (d0t) com with your mailing address!


31 Responses to “Interview with Shelli Johannes, author of UNTRACEABLE + GIVEAWAY!”

  1. Katelyn Larson November 30, 2011 at 4:25 AM #

    Ever since I heard about Untraceable, I’ve wanted to get my hands on it so bad 🙂 And now I can’t wait for Friday. I really want to know what this big news is…

  2. gloria November 30, 2011 at 7:32 AM #

    … SOUNDS UTTERLY, FANTASTICALLY AMAZING ♥ thank you so much for opening this window of opportunity for us! so excited!!! ♥

    • sjohanneswells November 30, 2011 at 12:54 PM #

      it is utterly fantastically amazing – if i do say so myself 😉

  3. Amber November 30, 2011 at 7:57 AM #

    I just recently heard of this book, and it sounds great!

  4. Aurora Blackguard November 30, 2011 at 8:09 AM #

    Gads, I love contemp thrillers! 🙂 I love the sound of Grace (quite frankly I think I would have adored the terrorist cells thing) and this sounds great. Definitely will pick this up soon.

    • sjohanneswells November 30, 2011 at 12:55 PM #

      good 🙂 im glad people are willing to give contemporary thrillers a chance

  5. Kulsuma November 30, 2011 at 8:20 AM #

    What a great giveaway!
    I would love to read these!

  6. Meredith November 30, 2011 at 9:03 AM #

    Great interview! And a major congrats to you, Shelli! I can’t wait to read UNTRACEABLE. I love love LOVE thrillers. And this one sounds amazing.

    • sjohanneswells November 30, 2011 at 12:56 PM #

      thank you and im glad you like thrillers too! I love them and I dont think theer are enough of them – esp in YA

  7. Rosie G. November 30, 2011 at 9:40 AM #

    Oooh can’t wait for the big news on friday and there are some awesome looking books in the giveaway today. 😀 Thanks LTWF girls for doing so many giveaways this month!

  8. hyalineblueRowenna November 30, 2011 at 10:56 AM #

    Let go of your ego–I struggle with that! Reading your blog was so inspiring, Shelli–I’m not sure yet if the indie road is the best one for me, but reading your success made me smile!

    • sjohanneswells November 30, 2011 at 12:52 PM #

      ego is what causes me anxiety most of the time 🙂

  9. Ellen Levy-Sarnoff November 30, 2011 at 12:36 PM #

    Hi, Shelli~ Congrats on your novel’s debut! The cover is stunning I immediately went to your blogspot but found your journey to self-pubbing confusing after the pricing debate entry. Am I doing something wrong? Also, did you self-publish a paperback before an e-book? Who is Coleman and Stott? Was this part of your $1000 budget? You priced Untraceable right — I will definitely buy! Congrats again! ~ els

    • sjohanneswells November 30, 2011 at 12:52 PM #

      whoa! lots of questions

      1) tell me what was confusing. the pricing strategy or me in general (b/c I can be very confusing 🙂

      2) I dont know – what are you doing? 🙂

      3) I did ebook and paperback at the same time.

      4) Coleman & Stott what I call my company – i thought it sounded very publishing so I hoped it would get me past the naysayers 🙂 But now the secret is out. I am so bad at keeping my own secrets

      5) my budget was 1000 – I spent about 200o in the end.

      6) Thanks! Buy it soon b/c it goes up to 3.99 on monday for ebook and 999 for paperback. I put it on sale for first week 🙂

      • Ellen Levy-Sarnoff December 1, 2011 at 2:27 AM #

        I read the free excerpt– and you are a terrific writer and make e-writers proud; I plan to buy the book by Monday, (and will review if positive (I’m sure!) reaction), I think I should keep the Kindle price at $2.99 — it seems to be a magic number What made you pub a paperback? Was this what you sent out to bloggers? Congrats again on your success! You deserve it!

    • Ellen Levy-Sarnoff December 1, 2011 at 2:55 AM #

      PS …And all my comments come from rooting for you because you are so talented.. simplify your blog. Model it after Amanda Hocking…. easy to follow. Less is best.

  10. Ella November 30, 2011 at 1:25 PM #

    Speaking as a teen, thank you for not making assumptions about our tastes as an audience! I read plenty of contemporary thrillers and have many peers who do the same. The self publishing angle is also really eye-opening; I’m so used to the negative stigma associated with it, it’s refreshing to see it done professionally.

  11. Fleur Ang November 30, 2011 at 3:02 PM #

    I sense awesome things in this blog post. 😀

  12. Emily B-H November 30, 2011 at 5:39 PM #

    So intrigued to hear of this journey! Definitely off to read the blog! 🙂

  13. sara November 30, 2011 at 10:16 PM #

    congrats, shelli! best of luck if you do decide to search for an agent.

  14. Renate December 1, 2011 at 1:33 PM #

    *squee!* I am drooling over that cover–and of course I can’t wait to read it!

  15. Sarah S December 1, 2011 at 3:29 PM #

    Thanks for the interview! It’s interesting to see a different way to go about publishing.

  16. Mac_v December 1, 2011 at 3:58 PM #

    You guys are so amazing! These books are all fantastic suggestions 🙂

  17. Kathryn Leigh December 1, 2011 at 6:39 PM #

    It is so cool that you’re offering so many giveaways.

  18. Sheena-kay Graham December 2, 2011 at 1:04 AM #

    Love the Interview. I’m planning to self publish a novel myself, nice to see indie success.

  19. Srjohannes December 4, 2011 at 12:31 AM #

    I’ll try and address more:

    Paperback was really for my mom 🙂

    I am redoing blog as we speak. Hope to hv new one up soon

    Thank u for the kind words. It’s been a hard journey of people telling me no one would buy this 😦

    Hope you all enjoy it!!!!

  20. Van December 14, 2011 at 10:14 PM #

    These books sounds amazing, thanks for the giveaway.


  1. BIG NEWS ANNOUNCEMENT! « Let The Words Flow - December 2, 2011

    […] to quickly announce Wednesday’s GIVEAWAY […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: