In my continuing “Author Spotlight” series, I present to you author Merri Halma.
Author Spotlight: Merri Halma
Today I’m fortunate to present Merri Halma, author of the Indigo Traveler Series (Indigo Traveler Book 1 and Keys to the Shadowlands Book 2 of the Indigo Traveler Series).
Hi Merri, thanks for agreeing to this interview.
Thank you for having me, Jason.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I studied Children’s theatre and children’s literature when I was younger. I really wanted to be a writer from a young age. I graduated though with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in Social Studies and the Humanities. Two years later, I earned a Master’s of Science in Counseling-Psychology. I still had the overwhelming desire to write and be published. Back then, I wasn’t aware of the writer’s groups like I am now. My whole goal after graduating was working in my field and attending prayer groups at my Church. After leaving my field and moving to Idaho, I saw a whole new world open. I realized there were writer’s groups and began joining them and seeking out others to work with. Digital publishing started and computers became the normal. Still, I am struggling to get my name out as other indie authors are.
How long have you been writing?
I always had an active imagination growing-up. I used to tell myself stories at night when I was going to sleep. I would often dream in stories or hear songs with lyrics, though I couldn’t write the music to go with the words. I also had a speech impediment, so at 11, I started writing down the poetry, and lyrics as well as stories. Writing became my way of expressing myself. My dad gave me my first journal book at 12 and taught me to never write in pencil. He knew I would write about my feelings because that is what I knew and felt. Words had power to me. Words, the taunts the peers lashed out at me with, had power to cut deep. Those words echoed through the brain. Eventually, that became one of my monsters in Shadowlands. Without expressing my feelings, I knew I would be dead. I discovered all writers feel deep and write from a wounded soul. I write to heal myself as well as to expand my inner self and journey toward Spirit.
What inspired you to start writing?
My need to express myself and feel like I am being heard. As someone with a speech impediment, I wanted the friendship and felt fulfilled when I wrote down the words pounding in my brain.
Tell us a little bit about your current project. Is it a novel, short story, or something else? Is it part of a series?
I am currently almost finished with my third book, tentatively titled Many Paths which is the third book in the Indigo Traveler Series. I realized this week that I will likely write another draft and deepen most of the theology bases on that current world as well as work with more development of the new characters that are introduced. I will find readers first to read through this draft to get comments. I am also doing my best to post a blog on Niume every week. I am hoping to post about two or more times, to drive up interest in my page and draw in more readers.
What genre do you prefer to write in, if any?
I have coined the phrase Spiritual Fantasy because I explore the whole concept that we cannot avoid addressing Spirit, however we see Spirit. I view it as a sense of self. I have grown from the view of Christianity as the only way to embracing a more world view that says all spiritual paths have truth in it. The ultimate truth resides deep within each person. My characters all strive to find their self-acceptance while struggling to realize how they fit into the whole Spiritual world or whether they really believe in the Creator of All worlds.
What authors influenced you?
After I read the Hunger Games, I began writing like Collins, but it didn’t last. I can’t say any one really influenced me, per se. I love to read, but mostly I have that inner drive to write. If I don’t write every day or work on my book everyday, then my characters begin bugging me or yelling at me. I’ve had my Lynx character begin telling me he was stuck where I left him and he was itching to move on. He gave me ideas of what he wanted to do next.
What are you currently reading?
The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin. She won a Hugo award this year for one of her books. I found her on Patreon.com earlier this year and was fascinated with her campaign and began following her on Facebook. The Fifth Season is a very deep world but watching as she develops the story and the characters is also fascinating. It is not for the light of heart to read because I find I must concentrate and spend time with it and engage my brain. I highly recommend this book to others.
Do you write every day? A few days per week?
I have been doing my best to write every day even if it just in my journal. I have to devote my time to finishing my novel, though.
Do you listen to music when you write? Does it influence how you write?
Sometimes I listen to instrumental music when I am the only one home. Right now, there is a Doctor Who marathon going on while I answer these questions. Since I’ve seen most of the episodes, I can write and watch it.
How do you think your writing has changed from when you first started?
When I first started writing, and hadn’t gotten published yet, there was only traditional publishing. If someone were to self-publish, they had to spend a small fortune on the printing and finding distributors for the books. I remember stories of the author of the Celestine Prophecy giving his book out for free wherever he went because he couldn’t sell them. The more people who read it, the more they talked with others his book swept through the country and he was awarded a book contract. I read it and it was horribly written, yet the plot, story and message were the driving force of the success. After that, he had someone help him write the second book in the series and it was better.
How do you create the covers for your books?
I usually get an idea of what I want, and hire a graphic artist because I can’t draw. I can visualize what I want, I can’t duplicate what I see on to paper. That is why I am a wordsmith, as another friend calls it.
Are there any non-literary influences for your writing (movies, actors, music, etc)?
I really love the Moody Blues. Their lyrics and music sends me into dreams and inspires me to write.
What is your favorite book and why?
I have many favorite books. I love the Harry Potter series, Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, J.R.R. Tolkien, Percy Jackson series and many more.
How do you market your books?
I have one Youtube book trailer that I posted below. I am still learning to market and create the ad copy and how to use PowerPoint. I plan to start teaching classes on how to journal to Journal to Your Soul and hope that platform will lead to people buying my books.
I am doing my best to write every day and learn how to get feedback from my audience.
Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?
An Titus found himself in a dark forest. The trees grew together so densely no light could filter through the canopy. It was grey, black and off white, but had no natural light. For a few moments, Titus stood completely still, not daring to breath. Finally, he took a cautious step forward and then another. Soon he was roaming through the dense woods. He felt lost, afraid and not sure of how he got here. Voices could be heard in the distance. Some were whispering but they were overshadowed by a few shouting voices. His heart pounded in his chest. He felt alone, yet knew something was there, watching him, waiting for him to make a move.
A creature made of sticks and stones wobbled out from amongst the trees. The creature’s eyes grew wide when it saw Titus, then cowered on the ground trying to cover his body in fear.
“Names are names. Just labels that can’t hurt me. Words are empty and meaningless,” it said. “I can hurt you worse.”
“Your words are brave, yet you cover your body as if you fear me.”
“Aye–, I am afraid of giants like you. You erupt at a moment’s notice – your temper – your rage. You hurt people with that whip you wear around your waist and send them to a dark place.”
“Dark place? You mean a place like this?”
“No, dark places within them, belittling them, telling them they are useless, don’t measure up to your expectations and are no good. From then on, all they do or see is reinforced. It is the dark place that you are experiencing now. You, you, you see, see what you have done.”
Rustling steps echoed from deep within the forest in the distance, like leaves being displaced as something came through. Titus’ whipped his head around, listening and trying to see what was approaching him.
“No, no, I can’t bare this! Take me away!” he screamed. “I’m sorry for the pain I’ve caused others. I can’t ever be happy again. Sticks and Stone, Sticks and Stones, they heard and break my bones. But the words are replayed over and over and over. My mother and father could never see me for what I was or wanted to be. The village kids hated me for being the prince. Take me away!”
“No, I can’t take you away. But I can lead you to another place where you see more. Do you dare continue?”
*Excerpt from Keys to the Shadowlands Book 2 of the Indigo Traveler Series
If you’re an indie author, what made you choose that route?
I was not sure I could land a traditional publisher. I had made friends with individuals who had published on CreateSpace, and they encouraged me to use that because it would cost less and I could control how it is marketed better.
Where can we purchase your current book? What about previous books?
My books are all available on Amazon and Kindle. Indigo Traveler Book 1 is also on Smashwords.
Where can we find you online?
Any parting words for writers?
Write every day. Find writer groups that you can join and learn from. Do not be afraid to share your work nor give up who you are because others say it doesn’t work. If you agree with them, then listen. Above all, it is your book and your words. Consider your message and what you want to say and then say it. We need your voice so please finish that book and get it out there.