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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

Rebekah Harris writes young adult fantasy

Rebekah Harris with her son, Desmond
Rebekah Harris with her son, Desmond

March 27, 2019

Rebekah Harris began her writing career as a reviewer of young adult paranormal and fantasy novels on her blog. She took a detour into fiction when her son was born.

Through her blog, she had met authors and agents who gave her advice about how to get started. She also earned a MFA in writing from Spalding University.

“I was in the process of querying authors and agents when I experienced complications during a high risk pregnancy and ended up having my son 13 weeks early. We spent five months in the NICU, and instead of hiring a nurse, I decided to give up my career as a high school English teacher and write. During this time, I researched all of my options while caring for my son. Ultimately, I decided to publish my YA fantasy novels on my own and released ‘The Spirit Breather’ in fall of 2017,” she says.

“The Spirit Breather” was her first published novel, but not her first novel.

“The first thing I wrote was a contemporary YA novel set in Appalachia about a troubled teen who was forced to spend the summer working on her great aunt’s farm. It has been through several drafts over the last 10 years and has finally found its home, despite so many years on the shelf. It will be released by BigSmall Town Books in the last quarter of 2019,” she says.

So far she has released three books in the Native Guardian series (the series that begins with “The Spirit Breather”). It is a young adult fantasy series based on the legends of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The fourth book, “The Spirit Reaping” will be released in the spring. While she doesn’t have any current plans to continue the series, she did leave an opening for a spin-off or companion series with a couple of the secondary characters.

The first book in her Iron Crown Faerie Tales was released in March. This series will eventually contain six books.

“All of my stories, whether fantasy or contemporary, are born from the history and lore of Appalachia. I enjoy researching our rich history and sharing it with the rest of the world. It is inspiring to me to focus more and more on my craft, gaining more knowledge and improving with each work I write. I find a sense of peace and joy in the creative process.

“I write in almost every genre. I began my career in journalism and still use that style of writing as a freelance writer and blogger. Some day, I plan to release a memoir about the premature birth of my son, and the journey we went through during our five months in the NICU. But my passion is young adult fiction, fantasy in particular. As a high school teacher, I love writing characters in their teens during their coming-of-age years when there is so much conflict and confusion.

“My works tend to be dark and explore human nature, hope, perseverance and spirituality. They are usually set in Appalachia and based upon the history or lore of the area, and while they are technically young adult books, people of all ages enjoy them.

“Really, I’m always reading and love to learn. I especially enjoy local histories and lore, and I enjoy nothing more than learning something about Appalachia, whether it be supernatural immortals, like the Nunnehi featured in the Native Guardians or mountain faerie circles, as featured in The Iron Crown Faerie Tales. While most people have heard of urban fantasy, supernatural stories set in urban settings, I love the idea of fusing fantasy and rural landscapes, which celebrates our area and its rich culture,” Harris says.

She self-publishes the majority of her fantasy series. She’s working with an independent publisher to release her first contemporary young adult novel. She also has her own company, Dreamlake Media, which she may expand someday. She does e-books and paperbacks for all her books. Her contemporary piece will also be available in hardcover when it debuts this fall.

“I had a literary agent several years ago and thought I was really going to make it in the ‘big leagues.’ Unfortunately, though, the agency shut down, and I was back at square one, which was extremely discouraging until I found my way once more. My career highlights always involve teaching workshops or givingreadings, especially to young adults. I never charge for school visits because I think it’s so important for teens in our area to see that with hard work, we can achieve our dreams, no matter how much money we have or where we come from.

“There is something inside of me, an innate need, to create. To imagine the world as I want it to be, where characters, through fortitude and perseverance, overcome their obstacles. I would write if I didn’t earn a penny from it. The bottom line is that I am happy when I’m writing. It brings me joy, and when I publish, I hope I can share that joy with others,” she says.

Like many writers, she sells her e-books mainly on Amazon. She has plans to branch out to other platforms. She says there are a variety of options available for advertising, including book tours, school visits, live events on Facebook, signings and workshops. She also uses advertising services through Amazon and Facebook, along with mailing lists, such as Ask David, Just Kindle Books and Bargainbooksy.

“However, the best form of marketing or advertising is simply producing a great book your fans will love and making sure it is well packaged with a professional cover and high-quality editing. Reviews and word of mouth are also important,” she says.

“I am not a natural salesperson, and sometimes I do feel that the business side intrudes upon the creative side, but to be successful in today’s market, you have to be good at both. I have been to several conferences and enrolled in a few online courses to learn the marketing side. There are also a variety of tools available out there to help you push your book to the top of the market, like KDP Rocket, for example,” she says.

She advises young writers to never give up, and “never let someone else’s assessment of your work or talent tear you down. Know that anytime you are creating a product, whether it’s fiction or a painting, you will always face criticism. Expect it. Prepare for it. And when it happens, ask yourself what you can benefit from the criticism, grow from it, and move on. Don’t let someone else’s opinion determine your self-worth. Keep working, keep writing, keep improving and keep learning,” Harris says.

Harris will attend the Highlands Writers Fair, April 13, at the Washington County Public Library, Abingdon, Virginia. She will be signing and selling her Native Guardians series and “The Thorn Princess.”

Born and raised in rural East Tennessee, Harris has been writing since she could hold a pencil. The beauty of her home in the Appalachian Mountains, as well as the legends, myths and folklore of the area inspires the plots and settings in her young adult and adult fiction. Harris is also a freelance writer, specializing in feature writing, editing, blogging and composition. An award-winning reporter and former high school English teacher, when she is not writing, reading or teaching, she can be found at home, enjoying outdoor mountain views and spending time with her family.

To learn more, visit www.bekahharris.com.

READ ON: Highlands Writers Fair features workshops and signings from regional writers

Topics: L, Literature