Interview with author Shel Delisle

Today I’m excited to welcome Shel Delisle to my blog! Shel is the author of the contemporary YA novel Dolphin Girl, which is available now in ebook format. I recently read Dolphin Girl and it is so good! I think you’ll all fall in love with it too. Shel is stopping by today to tell us about her book and about her path to publishing.

Sixteen-year-old Jane longs for the life of a dolphin. Wild. Graceful. Free. But between her mother’s strict rules and the cliques at school, she feels strapped into a child-sized life vest.

It’s not until Jane gets a tattoo and befriends popular Sam Rojas, a star on the school’s swim team, that her life feels a little freer. She begins to wonder: Is there a way to be an individual and not be alone?

While she navigates these murky waters, a wave of events crash down on her, separating her from her family, her best friend Lexie and Sam, who Jane’s fallen fin over tail for. Now she must figure out how to surf through rough seas without having everything she cares about pulled under.

DOLPHIN GIRL, author Shel Delisle’s debut novel, is a story of family, friendship, first loves and most importantly – freedom.

Thanks for stopping by my blog, Shel! Every guest on my blog gets their own intro music. So tell us, what’s your song pick?

Thank you for having me! While I’m typing this the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, there’s a nice cool breeze. Let’s go with “Beautiful Day” by U2.

What was the inspiration for Dolphin Girl?

Hmm…if I tell the truth here, I’ll sound kinda crazy, but I don’t really have a pat answer. Oh, what the heck! One day Jane started talking to me. Yeah, yeah, I do know voices in the head sounds certifiable, so imagine how I felt! Anyway. Over time she told me more and more of her story and it morphed and morphed and morphed again, until it was barely recognizable from the earliest versions.

But Jane, as a character, stayed constant and true to herself through all of these different scenes and actions and situations that my writing put her through.

What message do you hope that readers will take from your book?

Don’t let external forces or fear hold you back. Choose with your heart and head, then take action.

Okay. I know that sounds like it could be a scary proposition for teenagers. But I really believe most teens know right from wrong in their hearts. They know the difference between kindness and cruelty. They know smart actions versus clueless ones. And, if they haven’t learned basic humanity by their teen years, there’s not much hope for them.

Ultimately, if you make decisions with your heart—while still using your head—you might make a mistake, but you won’t make many. And everyone makes mistakes, so even that won’t mean the end of the world.

I love all the dolphin facts at the start of some chapters. Are you a Dolphin Girl like Jane? (While I LOVE dolphins, I think I’ve always been more of a Unicorn Girl. I hope you won’t hold that against me! :))

There are parts of me that are like Jane, but I have a little of her Mom in me. And a little of Lexie, too, so I’m not purely Jane, although I did swim with dolphins. So awesome!!

But that run-on sentence doesn’t really answer your question, does it? Okay. One of the ways I’m most like Jane is that in high school I had friends in all the different cliques. I believe the technical term for that is a floater. How appropriate for this book, right? So, I would never, never hold the unicorn thing against you! Vive la difference and all that!

It seems like social status and how people fit into that (or not) are common themes in all my writing. I’m not a fan of exclusionary tactics or segregation or chains of command. It’s one of those things that really bugs me. Seriously. I must be a rebel or at the very least an independent thinker. And, in that way, I’m a lot like Jane.

Okay, I am very, very jealous that you swam with dolphins. I want to do that someday!

Self-publishing (or indie-publishing) is getting a lot of buzz these days. What made you decide to take this step?

Well, what a great segue—Ha! Is there a word limit on my answer?

Okay, short answer: I’m a rebel and read the question above. :)

More in-depth, thoughtful, less subversive answer: Like most people who are serious about breaking in, I’ve been writing and submitting for a long time. A little over a year ago, I found my agent, or she found me, or we found each other. And she’s great! But while we came close, there was no cigar on the story that was subbed around—which I’m sure was disappointing for her, too.

In the meantime, I heard about some of the spectacular success stories, like Amanda Hocking and Joe Konrath. Dolphin Girl was already written, locked in a drawer, and gathering dust. I knew this manuscript would be an even tougher sell for my agent since contemporary has been—how shall I say it—in the doldrums for being acquired by traditional publishers. I began to look at other self-pubbed authors and it seemed like a lot of the ones doing well had written chick lit or contemporary. So, I thought maybe there would be readers for this story after all!

Finding readers is better than no readers. It’s the ultimate for any author. If you’re writing purely for creative expression, I think that’s great and then my recommendation would be to never pursue any kind of publishing and you can be as creative as you like. :)

So, for me having readers—especially complete strangers—who tell me they enjoyed the book. Well, that is just the best!

Great answer, Shel! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this decision with us!

Do you have any advice for anyone considering self-publishing?

Relax. Take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale.

Now, plan on everything taking a little bit longer than you originally thought it would. There are a lot of stories on the Internet of getting your book up in a month and while I think you could do that, it would mean skipping editing and professional formatting, and having a paperback version and proofreading. For backlist works that have already been published traditionally, that’s a different story. Super fast is definitely possible. But, if you have an original work, and this is the first time you will be reaching readers, make sure it’s the best book you can produce.

Exactly. Shel gives great advice there for any aspiring authors out there! I think it’s also great advice for people looking to traditionally publish their books. Take your time and produce the best work you can.

Fun question: If you had to eat just one thing over and over again for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Oh boy! When I’m being good, it’s Chobani pineapple yogurt. When I’m not, it’s peanut M&Ms.

Thanks for the interview, Shel! Readers, you can find out more about Shel and Dolphin Girl at her blog, on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Shel can also be found at the kids’ lit community Whatcha Reading Now?

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