Author Interview - Sidney Reetz
Hello! Welcome. Thank you for agreeing to do this. Let’s just start out simple. Can you tell me about yourself?
Greetings and salutations from Phoenix, Arizona! My name is Sidney Reetz, author of The Devil's Codex and Fallen Saint. I started writing back in elementary school after falling in love with the works of Brian Jacques, Anne Mccaffrey, Mercedes Lackey and Anne Rice. (One of these is not like the others, LOL.) I distinctly remember entering a short story competition in - 6th grade? - and confusing the teachers running the contest when I dropped off a one-hundred-fifty-some-odd page manuscript. I won second place though. From there I guess you could say the writer bug got ahold of me and I just never stopped. Outside of writing I love sewing stuffed animals, symphonic heavy metal music, true crime podcasts, horror movies and throwing myself into researching any topic that peaks my interest.
It's awesome you got second place. Second place rocks.
Hahaha, yes. In my older age I look back at the child I was and go, "Nice!... But what were you thinking???"
Can you tell me about your novels?
My first book, The Devil's Codex, is a first-person point of view from Lucifer Morningstar as he travels the earth performing good deeds. His hope is to earn his way back into Heaven, but of course everything always goes horribly wrong for him. Fed up, and giving himself one more chance, he ends up in Lost Port, California which has recently been dubbed The Devil's Playground and the most horrible city in the US. Luce convinces himself that he can turn the city around and moves in. From there things, of course, go downhill for our poor Devil. He stumbles upon the trail of a serial killer, which plants him directly in the path of a psychic homicide detective who believes Luce is the killer. However, a distracted Lucifer is never a good thing, and when the Devil is away, the demons will play. Within Hell, a prison break transpires and in the ensuing chaos two of the realms viellist demons manage to escape onto Earth. This also puts the angels in Heaven on high alert, who are all too eager to murder demons and assassinate their Satan at every chance offered. As all of this transpires, Lucifer stumbles upon a child who may or may not be the reincarnation of the love of his life, whom he murdered with his own hands.
Book Two, Fallen Saint, picks up the story twenty years later dealing with the fallout from the first books conclusion. Aria, now twenty-three years old, is hearing voices calling her to Heaven to take up the mantel of the Saint she has been prophesied to become. Knowing that fate isn't for her, Aria throws herself into her work as a singer, using her vocal abilities to influence people's emotions for the betterment of the world. However, being in the lime light, also places her in great danger; not only from the paparazzi and stalkers but the Archangel Michael himself who has been ordered to bring her in. In the meantime, Lucifer and his generals are in hot pursuit of Murder and Scepter, the demons who escaped Hell. Overconfident, Luce is ill-prepared as the trap the demons have been organizing for twenty years is sprung. Reeling from the consequences of his decisions, Luce finds himself powerless and cut off when Aria needs him most. In Hell, turmoil is boiling as angelic refugees begin seeking sanctuary from Heaven at their gates. Even the Angels and Saints begin bartering with those they formerly declared their enemies as something has begun to brew in Heaven. Together Luce and Aria must reconcile their past and embrace their future before the first bells of the apocalypse sound.
Where did you get the ideas for your stories?
Growing up I was never raised in any kind of faith, so I never really understood Christianity. Some of the concepts I understood, but the details and stories baffled me. So, since I'd always been fascinated by religions, I threw myself into learning what I could. In doing so, I began to see the character of Lucifer in a new light. Taking a cue from Milton's Paradise Lost, I saw him more a rebel fighting for freedom, seeking individuality and free will. That got me wondering what Luce's personal side of the whole fall from Heaven story was. What sparked his thinking and decisions to do so - or didn’t? What if Luce never rebelled at all and was just used? That line of questioning ignited the fire that eventually became The Devil's Codex.
What first brought you to writing?
In elementary school I actually struggled with reading. I had to be taken out of class to attend a special group to work specifically on reading. In that group though we had to read Stuart Little and The Mouse and the Motorcycle. I fell in LOVE with these books! I looked forward to class each day so that we could read more. One of the assignments that we were given was to write our own ending for Stuart Little. I can't remember what I wrote, but I recall having the best time ever with that assignment. That class really gave me my love of stories but I was too young at the time to connect what I was loving about it with doing it for myself. It was just a really fun thing we did in class today to tell my parents about. A little while later, I was in our local Albertsons doing the grocery shopping for my grandmother. As a treat for my help, she and my mother would let me buy something small. So, one day I came across a book in the magazine section titled The Bellmaker by Brian Jacques. It was Stuart Little met King Arthur and I was hooked! I spent that summer in the living room reading nonstop from sun up to sun down, getting as many books in the series as I could find. Once I finished the Redwall series, I moved onto any fantasy books that grabbed my attention. (Usually ones with a dragon on the cover.) And from there I expanded out into all manner of Fantasy and Sci Fi books. Eventually, I just thought to myself, "I love this! I wonder if I can do it too." And so, I started typing out stories on our little DOS program computer at home. I think my story is proof that anyone who says they don't read, just hasn't found the right gate-way book for themselves yet. I'm very grateful I found mine when I was very young - in a rusty, squeaking Albertson book spinner.
Have you written anything before The Devil's Codex?
Oh yes! But they are all my horrible troll children who will never see the light of day.
LOL. I know what that feels like.... Tell me about your writing environment. What does it look like? Do you listen to music or must it be silent? At a desk? What's your instrument of the trade?
I'm very fortunate to not be a full-time author, but still have an office in my home since my #DreadedDayJob allows me to work from home. Having a dedicated space really helps me, because when I enter it, my brain instantly is programmed to think, "Okay, this is the work space. I need to work here." My desk is nothing fancy. Actually, it's the desk I got as an eighth-grade graduation present. So, without me giving away my age here, I'll just say it's seen a lot in its time: Three house moves, one mishandling by my brother which scarred it with a few deep gashes, wear, tare, the top half of storage cubes getting destroyed, me losing the key for the side cabinet, the handle to said side cabinet getting snapped off (What the heck do I have in that cabinet anymore? Dare I look?) … Yeah, this desk should probably qualify as a war veteran by now. My instrument of the trade is nothing remarkable; just an old, outdated Toshiba laptop with no battery life to speak of, that will die on me the moment it's unplugged. Or a spiral bound notebook and no-bleed-through Sharpie pen for the days I can't carry around the moody laptop. Sometimes the words flow better for me in one vs the other, it just depends on the characters or my mood. When writing I need music, but I cannot focus on the words in front of me with lyrics zipping around me. So, I have to play instrumental music. But stuff like Yanni and Enya put me to sleep… So, I find I work best when I write while listening to instrumental soundtracks from movies or high energy trailer scores. I usually listen to Cinemix, an online radio station out of France, or a playlist I've made by groups like: Two Steps from Hell, Audiomachine, Globus, Future World Music, Epic Score, E.S. Posthumus and Les Friction. I find that the high drama, tension and mood-scapes of these songs help me keep the emotion and pacing up in my writing.
Do you find that a high drama music score becomes an issue if you are writing a sad depressing scene?
Yes it can. That's another reason I have side playlist for those times I need a specific mood setting. You really don't want intimate love audio over a battle scene or vice versa.
Indeed. What have you found to be some of the challenges of being an Indie Writer?
One word: Marketing. As an indie author you have to be a jack of trades with the necessities of the publishing world. You don't just get to sit and write all day. You have to take on licensing, taxes, contracts, payments, finding editors and cover artist, scheduling, ect. Sadly, once you try to "go pro" your time to actually sit down at a keyboard shrinks more and more. The biggest beast in that tangle for me in marketing. On top of getting to the finish line of actually having your book in your hand, you have to get your book out there - and also have it shine past all the other options buyers have. For an introvert who just wants to play with her imaginary friends all day, this is a huge challenge.
On the other end of it what are the benefits of being an Indie writer?
Personally, the best part of my day as an author is the interactions I have with fans. It makes me giddy when they get attached to my characters or love them enough to send me fan art. As a creative personality type, it's always wonderful to see others loving what you've put out into the world. There is also a certain Disney-esque aspect of the "dreams really do come true" saying. Myself and members of my writing group have always dreamed of being authors and its come true for all of us. Now that that dream is a reality, we get to upscale ourselves and try to become financially independent with what we are producing. (The grown-up part of the dream, if you will.) Likewise, as an indie author, there is a certain amount of pride in knowing you're doing this all on your own. You might be taking on a lion load of work, but all the power is still in your hands to do with as you wish.
You mention a writer's group, how long have you been a part of your writing group?
Oh gosh, I can't remember… Seven or eight years now? I was very blessed to have gone to high school with Kira Shay and Megan E. Vaughn. We lost track of each other once we graduated, but I happened to run into Megan at a Changing Hands book signing here in the valley. We connected back up with Kira and found out we all still had the drive and passion to be authors. So, we started meeting one night a week to help each other and push us to complete our first manuscripts. We also became each other's beta readers/critique group. For years now, we've meet at one of our houses one night every week to discuss current projects, marketing strategies, events or panels we want to present. We're a very small group, but I never would have finished The Devil's Codex's first draft without those girls. They are my sisters and closest confidants.
Do you have a plot for your stories when you start or do you let your characters decide what happens?
So for The Devil's Codex, I kind of just winged it with a very loose outline in my head. Granted it was my first book I wrote with the intention of publishing, so I think you can feel that in its pacing. Unfortunately, that writing process resulted in some heavy and time-consuming rewrites. When I sat down to write Dealing with Demons (a short story included in the From the Darkest Corner Anthology) I was on a tighter schedule. So, I sat down and wrote a tighter outline. Outlines for me are one to four sentences max per chapter. I can't get loaded down with details in outlines because 90% of the time my characters will take over and go left instead of right. So, I have to be able to alter the chapters around them while still keeping on course with the overarching plot. For Fallen Saint, I was determined to up my game and outlined the whole book before I started writing the first page. Again, one to four sentences max, but I color coded the plot threads and spaced them for pacing and needed down times. As a result, I think Fallen Saints pacing is a bit on hyper drive from what I'm used to, but it's a fun ride.
You mentioned earlier that you love to hear from your fans. Do you read all of the reviews for your books? How do you take and use the good and bad reviews?
Oh, good question! I really don't read reviews of my books online. I put my heart and soul into them, so they are my darlings I wrote for myself whom I then chose to share with the world. I adore them and if others don't, eh, okay fair enough. Not everything is for everyone. At events, I tend to get a couple people who are into the book until they find out this from the Devil's point of view, then immediately put it down and walk away. (Or that one time at the Tucson Book Festival when the guy with the loud speaker said I was going to Hell…) I find that when you dabble with religious fiction you tend to get a mixed reaction probably stemming from your audiences per-conceptions on the subject matter. I've even been asked/accused of being a Satanist because of what I write. My reply is always, "Nope, I have a shelf in my library about the guy, but not an altar dedicated to him." One bit of advice I did take to heart though was the constructive critiques about the pacing in my first book. Which we addressed above.
What is something memorable you have heard from a reader/fan?
Haha, well a friend of mine who is a lesbian looked at me and with a straight face said, "I would go straight for Luce." I proceeded to nearly choke to death on my dinner.
That is awesome that your characters can have such a good influence, or bad depending on how you look at it, on your fans
It was just such an "out of left field" comment, I was in no way prepared for! Once I recovered, I pointed out that she and Azazel would need to have a death match since he has the right of "dibs."
What do you love most about the writing process?
I love the spontaneity of not knowing how my characters will react to things I throw in their path. I'm not an author who can control her creations. They do as they please, outline or story path be damned, and if I don't follow them, my muse goes silent and the dreaded writers block hits. I know I shouldn't pick favorites, but I love having Azazel in scenes because I cannot predict him or what comes out of his mouth. He takes over and has to be the center of attention at all cost. Luce on the other hand is stuck in his head most of the time. He over analyses everything and has an arrogant streak that I love smacking him down with.
What so you hate the most about the writing process?
I'd have to say the rewriting process. Writing your first draft is like a fun roller coaster where you just get to play and scream and do whatever comes to mind. Your second draft revisions however are where the real work really kicks in. Where are you have to pay attention to pacing and continuity, trimming things out that don't belong even though you think they're the bee's knees. Getting your first critiques back are also really rough. (As a writer you have to learn to build some really thick skin quickly.) I get my revised manuscripts as clean as I can possibly get them before handing them off to my Beta readers. I think you myself, "Yes! This is perfect now!" ... and then a few weeks later I get my manuscript back covered in red correction marks and notes written in the margins. The manuscript literally looks like it is bleeding.
What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Find your tribe. Being an author is primarily a solo gig, but if you stay a lone wolf, you'll get lost in the swamps a lot. I recommend finding a dedicated, reliable group of fellow authors and/or beta readers. You'll need your tribe to cheer you on when you feel like quitting, likewise you'll need your tribe to rein you in when you go too far into left field. ("Sally, you're writing a period romance in Venice… I'm not buying how Bigfoot and aliens are fitting in here.") Avoid people who only tell you that your work is "great" and "I liked it." What I adore about my writers group is that they aren’t afraid to be fully honest with me and hit me with all they've got. Does it hurt sometimes? Heck yeah. (There tends to be a few days of Ben & Jerrys and random crying once I get my edits back.) Does it make me relook at the issue in the manuscript from another view point and then rework it to make it a hundred times better? Heck yeah! However, I have worked with my writers group for years. So, we're comfortable with this type of brutal honestly. I'd say if you're new to a group, unsure of yourself or haven't built a thick skin yet, talk to your beta reader before handing the project over for their review. Sometimes it really helps if your beta team balances their critique with areas you need to improve on with areas where you really knocked it out of the park. For me, I ask my team to note in the manuscript anywhere that made them chuckle or laugh out loud. This really helps me look at the balance verses me only seeing all the horrible things I need to fix or cut.
That's good advice. What can we look forward to in the future? What's to come?
Well, I'm taking a small break from my angels and demons and currently working on a new untitled project. The overall concept is that everyone has a soul mate, which means gods and goddess do as well. But the original definition of a soul mate wasn't your "perfect lover" but your "perfect partner." So, what would happen if you found out your soul mate deity was up to nefarious things and you had to battle against them for the good of all humanity? After this project is finished, I'll be jumping back in the pool with Luce and the gang for the last Saints & Sinners novel titled The Last Martyr.
Sounds fun!! Where can people go to stay up to date on what's happening with you? Hear about new releases? And purchase some good reads?
All updates and social media links can be found on my website
Thank you thank you for taking the time to let me interview you. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
If it's okay, I'd love to pimp out my author sisters Kira Shay and Megan E Vaughn. You can find their work here. Thank you again for thinking of me for this! I enjoyed it!