We had the good fortune of connecting with Shina Reynolds and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shina, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Creating is in my blood. There’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t think of something I might want to create in the future, whether it be a story idea for a book or a screenplay, a business idea, or an invention.
My father is extremely creative. He’s an inventor (fitness equipment for the most part) and has been a talented musician since he was young. I didn’t get to know my father until I was around 11 or 12. But when I met him, it clarified the why–the why I love to sing, choreograph dance routines, and make ‘music videos’ (it was the 90s and we had a camcorder). Later, when I first started making original music with him–my father on the keys and me with a pen and a microphone–I realized there was no denying that I’d always be a creative in one form or another. And that it was OK and even encouraged to not follow a traditional career path if that wasn’t for me.
Over the years I’ve worked as an actress, a singer/songwriter, a model, a photographer, and a writer. And I also love abstract painting. I met one of my goals/dreams of writing and directing when we shot the book trailer for my debut novel, A Light in the Sky in the summer of 2020. And I hope to write and direct a short film at some point.
But now, for over half a decade, my focus has been on writing. I’m an author and I love what I do. I feel at home in this career–like I belong. I also love the low-key nature of it (hello other introverts who love to write in comfy clothes from the comfort of their home). Writing and publishing my first book through my publishing company, Wink Road Press, has been one of my greatest accomplishments. Creating is like breathing. I wouldn’t be fulfilled like I am if I weren’t working in a creative or artistic career.
With that being said, I feel very privileged and lucky to get to do what I do full-time, without the pressures of a more ‘normal’ job in addition to my creative work. We creatives don’t always make enough right off the bat, so having the support of my husband (an entrepreneur) while I get my books written and gain momentum, is one of the things I’m most grateful for, and that I certainly don’t take for granted.
Ultimately, I pursued a creative career because expressing myself creatively through the arts is one of the truest parts of me. It’s what makes me, me. That, and I hope to bring some happiness to others through my creative work. If I can bring one person joy while getting to do what I love, well, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As an author, I’m often inspired by my dreams. My first book, A Light in the Sky, was inspired by two dreams I had. Both of those dreams ended up becoming scenes in my finished book. Coming from a background in film and acting, I am also inspired by movies and tv shows. One of my greatest dreams/goals is to see my debut novel (and the rest of the Clashing Skies series) be adapted into a film or tv series. Hello Ireland and flying horses!
When I write, I see the scene happening in my head, and then I write it down. It’s as if I’m watching a movie, and as the camera pans across a landscape, or zooms in on a character smiling, all I have to do is write it all down as it plays out. And when a character speaks, I just write that down, too. Most of the time, I don’t even know what is going to happen in a scene until it happens. A friend of mine, Codi Schneider, who is also an author–a very talented one–and I were chatting about how we both write in this way. Before we opened up about how the scenes seemed to just play out in our heads like a movie, we both had felt like maybe we were alone in how we write. But it was nice to know that someone else also imagines their books and then essentially just transcribes them as they go.
Since publishing in November of 2021, A Light in the Sky has won nine awards. I am beyond grateful for these awards. There is a definite validation that comes along with winning an award–especially when self-doubt is a struggle.
For me, getting my first book out wasn’t easy. I struggle with perfectionist tendencies, anxiety, and OCD. And once I decided to go the independent route with publishing, I knew I wanted to make sure my debut was going to be as quality as any traditional book out there.
I decided I was going to write a book sometime around the summer or early fall of 2015. I read and researched as much as I could about how to write a book. I had been writing screenplays for a long time, but I hadn’t ever tried to write a novel. And since I’m very research-oriented, learning as much as I could before I started writing felt like the natural thing for me to do. With a degree in art history and a minor in anthropology, research was an essential skill I learned in college, one that helped with learning how to structure a book, etc.
I started writing A Light in the Sky in the late Fall of 2015, and I finished the first draft in May 2016. I think I wrote it in about six months. Then I had my husband read my first draft. Then I revised it. Then at some point, I had my sister read my book. Then I revised some more.
Fairly early on I decided to set up Wink Road Press and publish independently. But that meant finding freelancers to edit my book (I ended up with three editors total, over the years), someone to design my cover, and also learning how to publish and distribute a book independently. There was a lot to learn. And I’m still learning so much.
But where I found the most difficulties, was knowing when to let go and publish. I was stuck in a loop of changing little things in my book, feeling like those little things would make all the difference. My editors were saying it was ready. My husband was saying it was ready. And yet, I was still feeling stuck. Feeling as if it just wasn’t good enough. Looking back, my book was probably ready to publish back in the fall of 2019… but hey, maybe those two extra years of changing certain words/phrases made all the difference (raises an eyebrow).
In the summer of 2020 I wrote, directed, and co-produced the book trailer for A Light in the Sky. And I still hadn’t published.
Finally, over half a decade from when I first started writing it, I published my first book. And now, almost a year after publishing it on 11/9/21, I am so happy it’s out in the world, even though it’s not perfect. Even though it’s won nine awards and doubt still trickles through my brain, making me wonder if I’m good enough to write the next book in the series (I am writing it, btw).
But I’ve learned that nothing I write will ever be ‘perfect’. Of course, it won’t. I knew, and I still know there’s no such thing. I also have learned that people will vary greatly in how they perceive your work. It’s all subjective for the most part (there are some things like grammar that aren’t so much), and realizing that–accepting that–was where I found some freedom to move forward with my next book.
We writers have to write the book we want to read. We have to write what we love. Because if we don’t love what we’ve written, it’s unlikely anyone else will either. But ultimately, if I can make one person happy with a story I’ve spent years on–that makes it all worth it.
That being said, as I work on book two, I have a strong desire to make sure I don’t get stuck in the same ‘need to fix it’ loop. I hope that I have indeed learned that good enough is better than not publishing at all–or waiting years to do so. And I hope that I’ll believe in my abilities, all while still learning more and practicing my craft. I hope to write faster, edit more efficiently (and without perfectionist tendencies), and publish with confidence.
I write books that are full of imagination. I write books about freedom and characters who are still figuring out who they are and what they’re doing. And I write books that are ready to be translated to the screen (waves at film/tv producers).
I hope if and when you read A Light in the Sky, it plays out in your head like an amazing movie or a tv show, and that you enjoy the ride! And I hope that it brings you some happiness.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’m so grateful to my husband, Ben, who has been my greatest support since day one of my starting my career as an author. He has listened to all of my ideas, read my first drafts, and has given me his feedback at the drop of a hat. He’s also an inspiration with his entrepreneurial spirit and his hard-work ethic (check out his company, Sure Dividend). And he also encouraged me to take the reins and go the independent route with my debut novel. And he’s loved me every step of the way.
I’d also like to thank my sister, Jess, for all of her support and feedback over the years on anything creative-related. She’s one of the only people I seek an opinion from when it comes to my writing (other than my editors, of course). She’s a voracious reader, a talented artist, and a wonderful person.
I’m also thankful to my mother for helping me work on my very first book when I was in sixth grade. The same book that won a Nebraska Young Author’s Award.
And I’m so thankful to my father, Ken, for inspiring me with his entrepreneurial and inventive mind. He’s been a source of encouragement throughout my many creative endeavors. And he’s also shown me love and acceptance for being the creative person I am.
I also want to thank my dad, Alan, for believing in me and cheering me on. He’s an avid reader and a sharp mind who continues to inspire me with his hard-work ethic.
And to my in-laws, Beth and Ben, who have supported me as an author and have treated me like a daughter.
And to all of my author friends (Thanks to Anna Hill for nominating me for this article) who continue to motivate and inspire me. And to the reading community who has supported me and my debut novel, A Light in the Sky.
Other: Wink Road Press: https://www.winkroadpre