I had a wonderful chat with one of the persons who was most influential in me becoming a published author, Miss Olivia Jarmisch! She is a published author whose online presence and public platform and ministry to young women goes way back! She herself is a young woman and a creative entrepreneur with loads of experience and beautiful insight. I look forward to sharing our conversation with you! So without further ado, here it is:
Me: Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about you!
Olivia: I wear a lot of hats and I do a lot of different projects but basically I am an author, I have handful of books published for young Christian teen girls. I am a singer, songwriter, blogger, YouTuber and I help coach other authors who are interested in publishing and growing their platform. I have a lot on my plate!
Me: Yes you do! Would you call yourself a “creative entrepreneur”?
Olivia: I think so, yeah!
Me: Would you mind sharing a little bit about your journey into this creative entrepreneurship? What brought you into full-time storytelling through words and music?
Olivia: Yeah. I have been a storyteller for as long as I can remember. I’ve always had a super active imagination! I had these dolls and had elaborate story lines whenever the neighbors would come over to play i would fill them in on what had been happening and what was going to happen in the “next episode” so to speak. I love storytelling when I was little. I started actually writing as soon as I learned how to write and played around with little stories I would write. But when I was a teenager I had this bad habit of starting stories and never finishing them. I enjoyed the storytelling but didn’t enjoy the practical aspect of writing, spelling, grammar, all that good stuff. I wasn’t into it. I had all these ideas but never really did anything with them. It wasn’t until I had graduated high school and I was running an online magazine for Christian girls called Crown of Beauty. I was doing a lot of devotional writing, a lot of non-fiction articles and then I connected with a group of girls and these old stories kept coming back up [in my mind] and I realized this was a perfect opportunity to share my fiction with people. So that’s kind of the short version of how I got into all of this.
Me: It sounds like through putting things out there you identified your audience and your niche?
Olivia: Definitely. My focus is teen girls. I don’t think I woke up one day and thought, “I’m going to write for teen girls.” It has definitely been a process of learning who I’m called to serve. I don’t think it just happened overnight. But certainly the things that happened after graduating started pointing in this direction. Using fiction could be a great way of reaching girls as well.
Me: What brought you to the point where you were inspired or confident enough to start sharing your stories or the storytelling process with a wider audience?
Olivia: Well, I was very nervous about starting to release my fiction. I think what started or gave me the courage to start sharing my stories with people was with my cousins. I have younger cousins and we have always enjoyed sharing stories and ideas and stuff. I was talking with them about The Coronation, which was the first book I published, and they were super interested in it. So I was like, well, I’ll read you guys the first couple chapters, and it’s funny because they’re all boys and The Coronation is definitely a girl’s story, And so they were very interested in it and they’re like, “this is so cool! You should share this on Crown of Beauty, your girls would love it!” So I thought, “Hmm, I wonder if they would?” So, it gave me the courage to slowly see if people might be interested in it and so I asked for beta readers (people who want to read the story ahead of time) and I got a lot of feedback where these teen girls were super excited and super into the story and that’s really what gave me the courage to realize, yeah I guess I’ll publish this story after all!
Me: Yes! And for anyone who’s listening I have The Coronation right here in my hand and it is not a little book! I mean, you write...I mean this is...the story itself is 454 pages and this is a 6x9 book! This isn’t just a tiny little book! But it sounds like, and correct me if I’m wrong, you kind of write towards the upper-middle grade/young adult audience, is that right?
Olivia: Yes. I feel like the target audience is really like 12-19, I think.
Me: So what is your mission in telling stories to these girls and to this age group and really anyone who gets involved in your stories. What’s your mission?
Olivia: Yeah, so my tagline technically is: creating pure and lovely reads for Christian girls. And I think of the Bible verse [that says]: whatever is true, lovely, noble, excellent, praiseworthy meditate on these things; think about these things. So for me that came from growing up as a young teen I would go to the library and I just wasn’t finding the kind of content I wanted to be enjoying. It was either interesting and had inappropriate things that I didn’t feel comfortable with as a young teen or the books were not my style or I thought were kind of boring. I had trouble finding the kind of content I wanted to read as a teen. As I got older, well, or for a while I gave up reading as a teenager...I kind of got a little frustrated with it. So when I was older, as a young adult I ended up coming back around to that and having the passion to create content that I didn’t have when I was a teenager. I think about [the fact that] I have nieces and nephews and what kind of stories are they going to want to read and what kind of things do I wish I could read when I was a teenager. One of my favorite quotes is: “If you don’t see the book on the shelf that you want to read then write it.” So I literally took that quote and I did it. I think that really has been my main purpose, to create that content that is pure and lovely.
Me: I love that! So, knowing your mission and knowing your audience...if we could speak to another audience...you said you coach people who are aspiring authors and those in the process of creating their work. Could you share a little bit about your story-making process. What does that look like for you? Are you a plotter, a pantser or a plantser?
Olivia: Yeah, I am definitely a pantser. Which is interesting because I’ve done lots of research and I’ve read all the books about plotting and I’ve read the popular how-to-create-a-novel using the snowflake method and all these different methods; the 3-Act structure and all that good stuff and I’ve experimented with it and written some things with it. But at the end of the day I always come back to pantsing because I think it’s wear my imagination can be the most free and also I’m very character driven. My stories are not so much focused on the plot as they are on the characters shaping the plot. For me that works really well because I know my characters really well and they really control where the story is going. Often time I was not even planning for it to go in that direction and they kind of take control of the story. That’s what I love to do: letting the characters take control of the story.
Me: That really makes sense to me. Because if you know your characters well enough then you know what they would say or do in any given situation. So if you’ve got a general outline of the situations then you can kind of just write into that. I love that too!
Olivia: Right. And I do some outlining. Like, when I say “pantsing” some people are like “oh, you have no idea where your story is going”. But I do have a basic idea or I know the ending for the most part. But I don’t do scene cards or plot out my scenes necessarily. I like to leave it a little more loose and fluid.
Me: That makes sense. I mean, I look at your book and think “Oh my gosh, I would need...to write something of this volume I would need a roadmap or something! I write for upper middle grade as well but my books are more like 35k words. Do you know how many words The Coronation is?
Olivia: People as me this all the time...it’s a really big number, that’s all I know!
Me: It’s a really big number! I do start with an outline as well but I call myself a puzzler because I have this outline but then part of that character driven plot really is, you know, sometimes there are surprises and so you’re switching things and then something else happens so it ends up being like putting a puzzle together and finding where everything is going to fit. I love character driven novels. They’re fun.
Olivia: Yeah they’re so fun.
Me: So where do you get your inspiration from?
Olivia: I’d like to answer that in two ways. First of all where I got the inspiration for the Tales of Tarsurella and also just general life inspiration. But I think the first part would be: I’ve had these characters for a very long time. These stories I’m writing right now are ideas that I had when I was little. These are the stories that I wanted to write when I was little but I didn’t because I hated writing. So, I think that a lot of these ideas have just sort of been inside of me. It’s just been a matter of sitting down and writing it. As far as inspiration in life, this is going to sound really cliche’ but it’s so true, I mean, it’s just the Lord, my relationship with God. This is how He made me and I know He’s called me to be a creative. Just the way He’s crafted my mind is so interesting. I know that I’m the same person I was when I was little, still that little girl running around playing and I know that’s who God made me to be. I say this all the time but, “it’s all His fault!” All these millions of ideas come from Him. I just know He’s the source. Spending time with Him every day and even just praying about my stories. I remember when I first had the idea for the Tales of Tarsurella. I knew I wanted this fictitious nation but didn’t know what to call it. I knew it was going to be in Europe but I had no idea what to name it so I was just praying and all of a sudden I felt this name just popped into my head: Tarsurella. So I really feel like that’s a picture of being able to collaborate with God, to work with Him on a project.
Me: That’s awesome! So a couple of things about what you just said that I think is very important for our listeners [readers] to pull out of there: You said you’re spending quiet time every day, praying and listening to God. I recently shared with the audience about the importance of finding that quiet space because our world is so loud and so busy and if we don’t build into our day that time to listen to God or to allow our inner creative to speak then we won’t get the message. We have to open up that space.
Me: And another point to that is, it’s beautiful that you recognize that God has given you these stories and creativity but intention without action is nothing. So, just, good for you for taking those stories and being a good steward of what you’ve been given and sharing with purpose. You’re sharing with purpose and that’s really beautiful, so, keep going!
Olivia: Yeah. Thanks! And I think even for just other authors/writers who might be listening [reading] if you’re in the middle of a project, writing your book I would encourage you to finish it. The Coronation was the first book I published but it was also the first book I ever finished! Once you finish that first work you get encouragement and feel you can write more. You realize it’s not as hard or as scary as you thought it was.
Me: Right! And you get better through doing. Right?
Me: What, if anything, would you like to share about your work in progress?
Olivia: I don’t typically share a lot about what I’m working on. I try to keep it a little bit of a secret. Lately I’ve been posting a little more on Instagram, sharing some teasers because I enjoy following people who do that as well. I’m getting ready to release the third book in my series and so I won’t give any spoilers for that. Otherwise I’ve been teasing a little bit of a story called Lost Inheritance. It’s about a girl who live in the US and is a very practical, down-to-earth sort of girl. She doesn’t believe in fairytales. She’s not into the girly sparkly stuff like I am. She’s pretty much the total opposite of me! By some crazy circumstances she ends up finding out she is the great great great granddaughter of Cinderella. Which might sound really fun, but for her this is crazy because she didn’t even believe in fairy tales and it’s a crazy ride for her. I’ve been having fun with that story. I don’t know when that will be released yet.
Me: Let me tell you, your teasers work, because I saw that on your website and I was like, “Okay, I want to read that! I’m in! When is this coming!” You’ve got me hooked. I’m ready for it! And you’re releasing your third book of your Tales of Tarsurella series. When is that coming out? Do you have a release date?
Olivia: I don’t have a release date yet. We are getting closer. We have been doing a crowdfunding project for it and so it’s kind of back in the readers hands. It’s been fun working with them and with the cover designer and formatter and different things. It’s a lot of waiting though. I would love for it to come out tomorrow but we’re still in the process. But we’re getting closer so it’s coming soon.
Me: Looking forward to that one too! So, this has just been really fun. I love hearing more about the heart behind your stories and the storymaking process. I have to tell you, you were very instrumental in my life as far as my independent author/publisher journey because Finding Myself...Facing Cancer probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day had I not talked to you about publishing independently. So I really appreciate you in that respect too.
Olivia: Aw. That’s so awesome!
Me: I appreciate you. Thanks so much! So, where can people get ahold of your stories or learn more about you?
Olivia: It’s pretty simple. You can just go to livylynnblog.com. Which is my main website and it has all the links for my stories and my YouTube and my Blog and all the crazy stuff that’s happening there. You can also find me on Amazon and GoodReads but the simplest way it probably to go to livylynnblog.com
Me: Beautiful. Well, thank you so much, Olivia. I really appreciate you taking the time to share with us today. It was great talking with you! Hopefully we can do it again sometime.
Olivia: Yes for sure!
I hope you enjoyed this interview with Livy Lynn! I hope to have more interviews with storytellers of all kinds in the coming days. I think it's so fun to hear how people think and how they share themselves with the world.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them here! Or if you are enjoying the podcast please consider going over to iTunes and leaving a review of Storyteller Station. I always enjoy sharing with you and look forward to when we meet again! Until then, create something great in your world!