Writer Spotlight: A’Shanti Sanders

Writer Spotlight: A'Shanti Sanders

Since relaunching Witty Title Here, I’ve been blown away not just by the talent of so many young writers (because duh they’re brilliant), but by how they’re building their platforms and marketing themselves and even self-publishing. That’s exactly what 17-year-old A’Shanti Sanders, the first interviewee of the Writer Spotlight series, is doing.

Already, A’Shanti has self-published five books and shows no sign of stopping. She’s hard-working, smart and so sweet, and every writer could learn something from her disciplined and optimistic mindset.

Meet A’Shanti Sanders

Tell us about yourself!

Hello, my name is A’Shanti Sanders, I’m 17 years old, and I write urban street lit books. I have been writing for seven years! I sometimes get the real world and literary world mixed up. I literally write every chance I get, and I mean everywhere. School, the dinner table, in the car—I hear it’s my addiction. I now have five books published on Amazon and Kindle: The Love Homicide series, Trap Queens, and Not Looking for Love.

When and how did you become interested in self-publishing? What made you decide to pursue that route?

I first self-published my books on a great website called Wattpad. I wanted to get my stories out and see how people felt about them. It was really a great place to start.

Describe your writing process. Do you have any routines or habits?

My writing process is simple: Find a seat and get to channeling your feelings, haha. I don’t really have a routine, I can practically write anywhere. With eight siblings you become good at tuning out the world.

What’s the hardest part about writing? The best part?

The hardest part about writing has to be the “writer’s block.” Sometimes you have so many ideas, but you can’t express them how you want. It makes you want to pull your hair out. The best part is getting to be whatever you want when you write. You get to write in the mindset of so many different types of people. It’s amazing.

Tell us about the main characters in your books. Where do you come up with the inspiration for them, and what do you admire about them?

My main characters are always strong and brave individuals who have such a strong voice and great message to teach with their lives. Just like myself. I believe my characters come from the people around me—I come from a very unique background, and it has caused me to meet and imagine very unique people. I admire the strength behind each one of my characters. None of them come from easy lifestyles. They all encounter some very difficult life-or-death situations, but they all handle them in different ways and take them head-on.

Trap Queens by A'Shanti Sanders

What have you learned from self-publishing that might be helpful for others?

I’ve learned that not everyone is going to like your stories, and that it’s a process. You have to take it slow and do a lot of research on the market and what you’re trying to do.

Do you plan to pursue writing as a career? What would you like to be doing in 10 years?

I do plan on a writing career. After two years of self-publishing, I was approached by a great company who signed me, and it has been amazing. In 10 years I see myself as a best-selling author stocked on the shelves of major book stores and doing a lot of great things with my gift of writing. Just like some of my favorite authors.

Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you reading now?

Some of my favorite authors are Talehia McCants, the author of the Paradise and Nightmare series and Joy King, author of the Bitch series. I absolutely adore and look up to those women. Their books are amazing.

Are you working on any projects right now? Can you tell us about them?

Right now I’m working on my Trap Queens series and a few other surprise books for my fans. All I can say is you’re going to go on a roller coaster ride with these dramatic and insane characters. They’ll teach you what life in the ghetto as an American kingpin or queenpin is like.

Any advice for young writers about self-publishing (or writing in general)?

To everyone wanting to self-publish or publish a book period, you can do it! Take your time and research the business. There is a lot to learn. Not everyone is going to like what you write, and you won’t become a best-selling author overnight. Just keep on writing and pushing forward. If you work, I promise you it will be rewarded!

 

Thanks so much for sharing, A’Shanti! Follow A’Shanti on Twitter and check out her books on Amazon.

Must Reads: For anyone who learned about love the hard way

Uses for Boys

I’ve always loved YA fiction. It is smart, it is complex, and it is heartbreaking. Uses for Boys is all three.

This page-turner took me less than two days to read, and in that time, I found myself hoping the protagonist, Anna, wouldn’t keep making the same mistakes over and over. But like a real human being, she does. With no father to speak of and a once-loving mom who now makes herself scarce, Anna is forced to navigate much of her childhood and teen years on her own. She seeks comfort in all the wrong places, mistaking sex for love and being punished for it as a result. Uses for Boys is a raw and real book that deals with abandonment and abuse, and it highlights the story of the kind of person society tends to shame by victim-blaming.

I did a Q&A with author Erica Lorraine Scheidt about some of the most important themes and moments from the book.

And her responses were so thoughtful that I’m really excited to share them with you now. Check out our Q&A below.

Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Uses for Boys author Erica Lorraine Scheidt (Photo by Marnie Webb)

WTH: Anna’s a tragic character who can’t seem to help but make the same mistakes over and over. Why was her story so important for you to tell?

ELS: I was writing into the question of how we make our way in the world. I started thinking about a teenage girl for whom sex was a salve to loneliness. And I was curious—why is it so easy for a girl to get sexual attention, but so difficult to get other kinds of attention? I thought, and I still think, that Anna’s story is important, because we are all lonely, we all have to learn how to be in the world. Anna just had to learn out loud, with little support or direction.

Some of the sex scenes are pretty detailed for a YA novel. How did you tread the line between being realistic and not romanticizing it too much?

I started out interested in what it meant that Anna learned about sex in the moment, from her partners, and not from frank, respectful conversations with caring adults. I was specifically interested in all the mistakes she made—and even when intimacy was surprising or tender or fun for Anna, it never occurred to me that it was romanticized. I think because because her experiences were also awkward or hurtful or confusing at times.

I did know, even when writing the earliest drafts, that the book was more explicit than many YA novels. But I feel strongly that we have to have safe ways to talk about sex and sexual situations—and fiction is one of those safe ways. We need to have more than fade to black and everything works out—because how do young men and women learn to navigate consent and pleasure without having some models for what works and what doesn’t work?

One thing I found interesting and refreshing about your book is how it depicts the abortion. While it is a fragile and challenging situation, the abortion is not nearly as dramatic or traumatic as it’s so often made out to be. It was a big moment in Anna’s life, but it wasn’t a defining moment. Did you take this approach on purpose, and if so, why?

I saw the abortion as one of the few times in Anna’s young life that adults were looking out for her physical and emotional wellbeing. And I loved the idea that Anna noticed these strong, caring women in the clinic and wondered what they had, why they were different than the other women in her life. I worked in an abortion clinic when I was 18, and I was so impressed by the women who worked there—kind, strong, generous, knowledgable women who were committed to serving others. It made a profound impression on me.

Anna’s mom’s absence throughout the book is such a presence, ironically. The whole time I was reading, I wanted to know how she justified spending so much time away from her daughter. What don’t readers know about her that you do?

I’m fascinated by villains. And the idea that the villain of your story can always justify his or her actions. Anna’s mom thought she was providing for her daughter by seeking financial security. I also suspect that Anna’s mom didn’t know how to make a different kind of home for Anna. I have a lot of hope for Anna, but I also have hope that her mom will change and grow.

Your website says you’re working on a new novel. Is there anything you can share about that?

Yes, only to say that it’s been difficult. And I won’t know until it’s finished, but the project seems to be taking a new turn and I’m very excited about it.

 

Thanks to Erica for sharing her thoughts and insight. Pick up a copy of Uses for Boys here or at your local bookstore. Follow Erica Lorraine Scheidt on Twitter here.