A Conversation with: Steen Jones

Steen Jones, The Door Keeper, fantasy, magic, fiction, writer, writer interview, writing advice, publishing advice, query letters, writer inspo

Steen Jones has this year achieved something the rest of us aspiring authors are still dreaming about – a publishing deal for her fantasy novel, The Door Keeper, which will be out next year! I’m so excited for her and can’t wait to see the book when it finally hits the shelves. The Door Keeper features a single mother in her 30s, secrets from her past and magic doors that open to new and exciting worlds. Now if that’s not enough for you to want to add it to your future TBR list…

In the meantime, I thought I’d talk to Steen about her journey to getting published, her upcoming debut book and her invaluable advice for writers looking to land that magical publishing contract too. Read on to find out more!

Tell us about your debut book, The Door Keeper!

I am really excited to finally tell this story! The Door Keeper is a story that I have been toying with and imagining for several years. It is about a 30-year-old single mom and the tension she faces when confronted with her unknown past and the possibilities of how it may change her future. There is love, adventure, laughter, heartbreak, and my personal favourite – exotic magical worlds.

Your heroine is a woman in her 30s, as opposed to a heroine in her late teens or early twenties, which is the norm for many fantasy novels these days. Why did you decide to write from an older woman’s perspective? Did you find that an older voice shaped the telling of your story in a different way than it would from a younger perspective?

As an avid reader and a huge fan of YA science fiction, I love reading and imagining the amazing worlds that are described, but I always find myself having trouble relating to the traditional “love triangle” tension throughout. I mean, I’ve been married for almost 15 years, and been a mother for 13 of those. It’s hard for me to even remember, much less relate, to being 18 years old and having to choose between two different good-looking, brooding teenagers. I wanted to write a book with all of the fun and fantasy of the YA genre, but with the heart and tensions that I could personally relate to. That is why I wrote The Door Keeper the way I did. Also, I think it definitely lent a different perspective than if I’d chosen a younger heroine. Eden is smart, careful and has a lot of life experience under her belt. She has experienced pain, raising a child, the loss of her husband, and true, real love. She makes decisions differently than a woman in her twenties would, especially considering she is responsible not only for herself, but for her daughter.

As a first-time author, how are you finding the process of publication? It must be so exciting!

It really has been so exciting. Everything is new and unknown, almost like I’ve walked through my own door to another world! I did a ton of research before I started the process, and honestly was expecting the worst case scenario. Years of rejections and a thousand no’s. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.

What was the editing process like for you? As I understand, you first submitted two 5000-word books, before deciding to put them together as one.

The editing process was an interesting one. I finished my first draft of The Door Keeper at 50,000 words. I got it edited by a friend and started querying agents, to no avail. While I was querying, I began writing the sequel. It flowed out of me and I finished it at 50,000 words as well within a couple of months. At that point I was still getting rejections for the first story and after getting advice from a friend who had published a trilogy in the same genre, I decided to try combining the two books together and create one full length novel. I also decided to try bypassing agents and submit directly to smaller publishers that accepted unsolicited material. My first batch of queries after combining the books led to my contract with Royal James Publishing. I will say, deciding to combine the books was a difficult decision, but my friend, feeling my anxiety, told me what I needed to hear. She told me not to be afraid that I would run out of story. I wanted a trilogy, and she knew that I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to deliver on it if I combined two of the three together. But she was right, my imagination continued and still continues to run with different plot line ideas.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in your writing career and how did you overcome it?

It sounds funny to even say I have a “writing career.” I’ve only been writing and working on this project for about a year and a half. I haven’t really hit any challenges so far. Maybe just finishing the story itself. 100,000 words is a lot to write, and I had a very busy life when I started this project. Writing was the least of my priorities in the beginning; however, as the story continued to flow out, I realized it meant more to me than just a hobby. I wanted others to read it, and I knew it would mean transitioning and rearranging my life a bit to accomplish that.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Don’t listen to just any one person. Gather as much information as you can, from everyone you can, about writing, querying, blogging, traditional or self publishing… then tailor it to fit you personally. No one else has your answers, you must figure them out for yourself. Just educate yourself from all viewpoints so you can make the wisest decision for you and your project. Oh, and just keep writing. (Best advice I received was that for every rejection email or deadline passed, I should send out another query into the world. That’s exactly what I did until I got an offer.)

What’s a regular day like for you?

I wake up in the morning and get my kids ready and off to school. I make a large cup of coffee and write out my to-do list for that particular day. After my mind is cleared and I feel organized, I spend about 30 minutes journaling. Then I work on book stuff; writing, brainstorming, promoting, blogging, emails, etc., until lunch. Unless I’m on a creative/writing roll, or have some pending deadlines coming up, I switch over into my Wife and Mom hats. I work on cleaning, cooking, or laundry. Then my kids get home from school and we do homework, swim in the pool, and cook dinner. After dinner, I usually enjoy a glass of wine and binge watch shows/movies with my husband on Netflix. My nights are usually pretty relaxing now that my kids are older.

Name three of your favourite books.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. (It fueled my imagination as a child and made me fall in love with the idea of other worlds.)

Love Does by Bob Goff. (Taught me how to love others, how to treat people, and how to live with a sense of whimsy.)

The Notebook. (I will never forget when and where I was when I read the ending.)

I love that The Door Keeper features doors that open to magical worlds. If you could have a magic door that opens to anywhere, where would you go?

Okay, this is a really hard question! My gut says Positano, Italy. I’ve never actually been there despite using it a major setting in The Door Keeper. I have always wanted to go… desperately. But honestly, there are two worlds I created in the book that I would love to visit, other than just in my imagination. But I can’t exactly tell you why… no spoilers! 🙂

Finally, what are you working on next?

The sequel to The Door Keeper ! I’ve already started and can’t wait to take these characters on more adventures in new and imaginative worlds.

Thanks so much, Steen, for coming onto The Salonniere’s Apartments and sharing your story with us! And for those wanting to find out more, you can visit Steen Jones on her official website here, as well as on Twitter and Instagram. I can’t wait to see The Door Keeper come out!


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