Welcome to the fourth Author Spotlight post of 2022! Every month, I showcase an indie author and interview them to find out more about their writing life.
This month, the author in the spotlight is H. Noah! H. and I met on Clubhouse, and I have since worked with them on their novel Bluebird At My Window. Bluebird is an intense, hard-hitting book, but it's also beautiful and tender, and it explores what happens when humanity is pushed to its limits. H. is a joy to follow on social media, and I'm excited to see what they write next!
Bio: They’ve been a massage therapist, social worker, poet, teacher, and more. Picking up a B.A. in Criminology and an M.S. in I-O Psychology. They’ve also lived in Alaska, Maine and many places in-between. They are currently still trying to find a forever place as they travel the US.
Q: Can you tell readers a bit about Bluebird At My Window and the inspiration behind it?
A: Bluebird At My Window is a character-focused story centered around mental health, processing trauma, and the impacts both can have on everyday life. When I first started Bluebird around ten years ago, it was nothing more than a short story I’d created for a writing class. I had to draw a color and an animal and come up with a story from both. I drew blue and a bird and at first had no idea what to write.
Though, at the time I was fascinated with how children could transfer inanimate objects and pets into tools of comfort. So when this fascination was combined with my love of true crime, the idea for Ann and her bluebird came into focus. I worked on it from time to time over the years, adding characters and trying to develop the storyline further, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that the overall story found its voice for me.
Q: What was the most difficult part of Bluebird At My Window to write, and why?
A: For me it was when I wrote about the unraveling of characters after trauma. When I had to write about the moments of words not said between characters, the pain they unintentionally inflicted on those around them, and so on. It's easier for me to write the moments of certainty for them, even if that certainty led to them doing harm purposely.
Q: Some of the chapters or sections in Bluebird At My Window are written more like poetry than prose. What was the motivation behind switching between narrative styles?
A: I wanted to help readers that may not have dealt with mental health issues before connect more easily to the moments of disconnect within the story. So the readers could almost lose themselves with the character and hopefully understand how real breaking from reality could be. This is where the decision for the more poetic language came to life.
I honestly wasn’t trying to make it poetic when I wrote it, more trying to replicate thought processes in a way that could channel a realistic reading experience for readers that could humanize what the character was going through. Though I have to admit, it was a happy accident since poetry turned out to be the perfect style for what I was trying to do since it can evoke strong feelings and imagery with fewer words.
Q: How do you choose your characters’ names?
A: For the most part I just chose names that seemed to fit—it was my least favorite part, to be honest, and I changed names a lot. I knew I wanted to have Maddie and Marie as two M names. I liked the idea of nicknaming them M&M or M-squared in my head like girls had done on my volleyball team for each other when I was in high school. It stuck with me and I thought it was cute.
Q: Have any of your characters surprised you? If so, how?
A: Honestly, the characters keep surprising me, specifically the things readers pick up on. This is the first time where I’ve created a full story, and the reactions I get from readers have been incredibly varied and interesting. They not only open my eyes to what characters can be to each reader, but they've helped me understand how to create my characters going forward.
Q: Why did you choose the self-publishing route?
A: I knew when I was writing Bluebird that it was likely too much of a genre bender for traditional publishing and that I didn’t want to change the story to fit what a major publisher would want. Even if it was picked up, I knew being fully in charge of all creative aspects of my book was incredibly important to me. That's how I knew self-publishing was the right choice for me. I could retain overall control of my work and find people to work on it with me who believed in it as much as I did.
Q: What advice would you give authors who are looking into self-publishing?
A: Making friends with a self-published author or two can help immensely, especially when navigating everything for the first time. I was lucky that my brother had already been doing it for years and was able to help me dive in with some idea of what I was doing.
I know many writers I've talked to bring up the huge expense they hear others mention with self-publishing, but it's honestly not that scary. Since you’re the one in charge, you get to make the budget. Are there people who spend a lot? Yes. But there are also people who spend barely anything. In the end, it's about developing a budget that works for you and figuring out what parts you can do yourself and what you need to outsource.
It’s also okay to take your time and create a story that you’re proud of according to your own schedule. So if there is someone you want to hire to work on some aspect of your book but you need to save a bit or wait for them to be available, then wait. If I have to give one solid piece of advice, it's that you shouldn't worry or compare what your self-publishing journey looks like to someone else's; it's about what works best for you in the end.
Q: Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g., lighting a candle before you write, meditating before you write, going for a walk to get ideas)
A: Not really. The only thing I find I really need is to be alone when I write. That's why I tend to write at night when everyone is asleep. It feels like everything around me calms and it's easier to focus and not get distracted.
Q: What does your research process look like for your writing, if there is one?
A: It depends on the book, to be honest. I didn’t go into Bluebird doing research. I had a basic idea and wrote the bones of that first. When I went through revisions, I did research to help character development by delving into non-fiction books, fiction books with similar topics and characters, documentaries, podcasts, and even writing videos from authors I enjoy to help me stay on track with writing my first novel.
For my second book, since it's a historical fiction, I’ve been doing a lot of initial research on various decades and events to help pin down the feel of each decade I want to highlight and historical events I want to choose. I’m also reading popular books from those time periods, and know I will do similar research to my first book for my characters when I get more in-depth with my writing.
Q: Do you have any specific authors or books that you've learned from on your writing journey?
A: I think every writer pulls from authors they read, but for Bluebird specifically there are a few that stand out. The book that had the largest impact on the story was The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. It was a book I picked up because of the mental health focus, and after I put it down it not only clarified what Bluebird was supposed to become but also inspired me to write Diane’s entire point of view at once. I also watched writing classes from Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman, which helped me stay focused and push through. I tried reading various books on writing but found the visual classes worked better for me.
Q: What’s your number one tip for tackling imposter syndrome?
A: Honestly, embrace it. Even though it took over ten years to finish Bluebird, a lot of that time was me starting to write and getting frustrated and quitting when it didn't turn out perfect from the start.
So when the start of the pandemic began and I had nothing else to focus on, I made it a goal to at least write the full first draft. While I worked on it, I started talking to and listening to other authors, and the biggest thing that stood out and helped me finish was the fact that I needed to accept that the first draft was going to be shit.
The point of the first draft is to tell the story to yourself. The edits are what make it come alive and truly shine, especially with the help of your team (editors, beta readers, sensitivity readers, and ARC readers). There will always be feedback that's hard to hear or makes you doubt yourself, but in the end, trust yourself to navigate it all when it comes to the story you want to build. It's okay to let yourself feel those lows too, but then channel it to make the story better.
Q: How do you refill your creative well?
A: I never try to force creativity. If I'm not feeling the writing, I listen to what my body is saying I need. Whether it's sleep, watching movies, reading books, playing video games, or going for a walk. It's better to let your mind relax than punish it and yourself for not having the answer for a scene or character when you expected to have it.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I’m starting work on a queer historical fiction novel with a paranormal twist, centered around found family, finding comfort in your own skin, and the idea that soulmates aren’t always the people you fall in love with but the people who help you fall in love with yourself. It’s proving to be a challenge with the extra research, but it has been wonderful to delve into so far.
If you'd like to follow H. Noah on their writing journey or find out more about their stories, this is where you can find them: