Meet Rebekah Stelzer!
Rebekah is a Gertrude Warner Awards winner for her middle-grade sword and stone fantasy, The Queen and the Knights of Nor. She loves her family, her writing, and her community. Read on to hear how one author started her fantastic journey!
Chanticleer: Tell us a little about yourself: How did you start writing?
Stelzer: I have been writing stories since around fourth grade. I struggled in my early elementary years with reading, but once I got it, I loved it and began making up my own stories. This became an invaluable skill as an Army brat. Being able to make up my own stories as I looked out the window during our cross-country moves helped pass the time before tablets and in-car DVD players.
Chanticleer: When did you realize you that you were an author?
Stelzer: I realized that I could be an author when I started writing down the bed-time stories I was telling my daughters. Writing after they went to bed gave me a creative outlet. During this time, my kids were really little and as a harpist, practicing was difficult because my kids wanted to play to harp with me or climb on the soundboard. Practicing after bed-time was not an option because I did not want to wake them up. Writing became a way for me to connect with the arts. I realized I loved writing, I loved editing, and I did not mind constructive criticism. But I really felt like an author when I held a book in my hands with my name on the cover. It was a wonderful feeling.
Chanticleer: I know the feeling! Nothing like holding the actual book in your hands and gazing at your name on the cover. Talk about genre. What genre best describes your work?
Stelzer: I love to talk about genre. Being a newbie in the writing field, I assumed that my writing was geared towards young adults, but my wise mother told me it was better suited to younger readers. With a little research, I discovered MIDDLE-GRADE fiction. I realized that many of my favorite books fall into this category and several of my favorite authors wrote to this audience. The Chanticleer Gertrude Warner Award helped me to narrow down my focus as well by helping me to define the genre that suited my work best. This allowed me to establish a framework and focus for my writing overall.
Chanticleer: What led you to write in this genre?
Stelzer: I feel that middle-grade fiction tends to be less angsty than young adult fiction and tackles more complex issues than children’s fiction. I am drawn to the sense of hope that I have found in many middle-grade stories. It’s a genre where authors can tackle some tough concepts, like homelessness as seen in Crenshaw by Kathrine Applegate, or loss and redemption like in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis while balancing the seriousness of such topics with resilience.
The kids I know in this age group want to know things. They want to know what is going on in the world around them. They are trying to piece together reasons for why the world is the way it is. They then try to create solutions to the problems they see with an innocence and hope that is refreshing to me as a grown-up. I enjoy writing and telling stories with that sense of hope, that has a satisfying, but not always perfect “happily-ever-after” ending.
Chanticleer: That is really insightful. Do you find yourself following the rules or do you like to make up your own rules?
Stelzer: I definitely make up my own rules. My mom, who is always my first reader, makes sure I follow basic English and grammar rules, but as far as storytelling goes, I’m not very formulated in how I go about things.
Chanticleer: What do you do when you’re not writing? Tells us a little about your hobbies.
Stelzer: As I said earlier, I am a harpist. At this point in my life, however, most of my time is spent homeschooling my daughters and taxiing them around to soccer, dance, harp lessons, and playdates. I also volunteer as a youth leader at my church.
Chanticleer: You are busy! How structured are you in your writing work?
Stelzer: I am not structured in many aspects of my life and that includes my writing. I will go months without doing much of anything with writing besides thinking about characters and plotlines, then spend every night for six weeks writing and editing. But I enjoy every minute of it.
Chanticleer: Cute kitty! Name five of your favorite authors and describe how they influence your work.
Stelzer: C.S. Lewis is hands down my favorite author. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe was one of the first books to capture my imagination and get me hooked on reading. I really love Lewis’ way of communicating very profound things in simple everyday ways. He also has a sarcastic bite to his writing that I greatly admire.
George MacDonald won my heart with The Princess and the Goblin, and The Lost Princess. Particularly with The Lost Princess, I saw how an author could weave important life lessons into an engaging and entertaining tale. Nesbitt’s Enchanted Castle is so quirky, slightly strange, and completely imaginative. This work broadened my ideas of fantasy. Unlike Lewis who took the Pevensie children out of our world into another world, Nesbitt brought the magic to earth, and I loved that.
Rebecca Davis is the author of a biography entitled With Daring Faith, the story of the life and service of Amy Carmichael. Carmichael was a woman who did not back down even in the face of death. She learned that her perceived flaws were actually God-given gifts that helped her to save countless children from slavery and prostitution and provide them with shelter, food clothing, education and medical care. I learned through Davis’ account, that each of us has something to contribute to our communities. Her retelling of Amy’s courage has helped me to have courage, on a lesser scale, and to not give up when the way ahead seems blocked. I think that is a lesson every writer needs.
Jessie Sanders, author of the Grover Cleveland Academy series must be on this list. She was my childhood friend who, from the moment the question was asked of her, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” she responded, “An author, of course!” and never deviated from it.
When I began to look for publishers I reached out to her and she gave me great advice, and encouragement. It helped to know someone who had pursued writing and was succeeding in the field. She made the dream seem obtainable, and I am so grateful for that.
Chanticleer: That’s an impressive list! What do you do in your community to improve/promote literacy?
The biggest contribution at the moment is teaching my kids to love reading! My oldest is writing her own stories now, my middle-daughter read her first chapter book this summer and my youngest is really getting excited about learning to read in kindergarten.
I have also had the privilege of encouraging a couple of young writers who are just beginning to pursue their dreams.
For the last two summers, I had the privilege of chaperoning a youth trip to NYC. On these trips, we assist a permanent organization that teaches English to immigrants for free. I love watching the adults we work with learn to read. They come from all backgrounds. This summer I was able to work with a man who was a doctor in his home country, and an older woman who had never gone to school. Teaching our adult students in New York is an amazing experience, but I get the double blessing of watching the teenagers I work with a weekly basis, teach others.
Chanticleer: What are you working on now? What can we look forward to seeing next from you?
I am currently in final edits on my second book Susa’s Story, the prequel to my first work The Queen and Knights of Nor.
It follows Susa a young woman training to be a lady-in-waiting to the King’s betrothed, but her loyalties are torn as she has promised to help her childhood friend Draka win the King’s heart. In her quest to become queen, Draka along with Susa and their friend Loeta, partner with Graken, a dragon with immense powers. Graken guides the young women in the magic arts, but these lessons do not come without a price. Susa has some hesitations along the way but feels justified because she is helping her friend. Little does she know that the consequences of their actions will plague the kingdom for generations to come. As two of the women pursue their newfound powers with reckless abandon, one will lose all that she loves most.
In addition to editing, I’m learning about cover art, layout design, and formatting as I am going to indie publish this time around. I hope to release Susa’s Story this fall.
Chanticleer: You parted ways with your publisher? How did that happen?
Stelzer: I parted amicably with my publisher in January. They were awesome in helping me to move over into an indie-type venture. They weren’t sure what to do with me, never having published middle-grade and I didn’t know about anything. So it was a clean split and I have nothing but good feelings towards them.
Chanticleer: That is truly the best of all worlds! Thank you for spending some time with us today, Rebekah. Best of luck with Susa’s Story. We are looking forward to reading and talking about that!
If you love Middle-Grade Fantasy, you will absolutely be enthralled with R.L. Stelzer’s work!
Pick up a copy of her award-winning book, The Queen and the Knights of Nor and write a review. Author’s love reviews.
Check out Rebekah’s website here: Legendsofnor.com