Live Meets…Teen Author Riley Shasteen
- Cherokee Seebalack
From fanfiction writer to published author, Cherokee chats with 16-year-old Riley Shasteen about how she secured her publishing deal, the perils of balancing school life with writing, and her favourite One Direction member
How did you get into writing? Did you originally start writing fanfiction or were you working on your own creator-owned stories?
When I was little I liked to handwrite original stories and keep them in binders. That stopped once I got to middle school because I didn’t have much time for it. Then, in high school my best friend and I became huge fans of One Direction and started reading fanfiction on Instagram. She found Movellas and told me about it. We started reading stories on the website and got so inspired we started writing our own.
So, how did your publishing deal come about?
At first I got an email from one of the editors of Movellas about making it into a choose-your-own path story game. That didn’t work out so we just focused on publishing it. I was excited at having my book on the front page of Movellas as most popular of the month last year. Now I’m third most popular on the entire website with over 80,000 views. It is humbling to have that many people take the time to read and enjoy my story.
Before being contacted by Movellas, what was the readership response to you work? Did the feedback inspire you to continue writing chapters for the story?
Most definitely. The writing process is really hard and lonely, but getting positive feedback and encouragements helps me to continue writing. Whenever I was late to post a new chapter (due to writer’s block or lack of time) my readers would say such nice things and ask me to please post soon, which made me sit down and write for them.
What kind of scenarios/situations in your older stories were the One Direction boys involved in?
They were more common situations unlike The Last Girl which is a different and more unique scenario. One of my old stories called Minor Complications was about a girl named Emma who met the band and started liking Liam but he liked her best friend. They involved little love triangles like that.
Can you tell me a bit more about The Last Girl?
Jenna, the main character of the book, becomes involved in the school fundraiser called the slave auction. Senior boys bid on freshmen and then they live with them for a week. In this auction, if you are put as ‘The Last Girl’, or the last one to be bid on, you are the most popular and all the guys fight to bid on you. Jenna gets selected as ‘The Last Girl’, and the most popular guys in school bid on her.
I use love triangles like in my other stories. In The Last Girl it’s more of a love pentagon [laughs]. It involves more members of the band than just one.
Who is your favourite One Direction member (if you can pick one!)?
Liam – he’s the first one to sing in What Makes You Beautiful. I thought he was so cute and I loved his voice. He became the first member I learned the name of and could pick him out when I saw pictures of the whole band before I knew all their names. I guess that has sort of stuck with me over the past two years.
Do you have Liam related merchandise like dolls, posters and shirts at home?
[Laughs] Yes! I have posters all over my walls and I have a Liam cardboard stand-up. I also have a Harry stand-up and I have all five dolls. My parents think I am crazy.
They don’t know about the love we can have for bands, though! Would you say Harry is your second favourite?
You get me [laughs]. And yes, Harry is my second favourite. I feel bad saying that though [laughs].
You can still love them all equally, it’s good! (But with a soft spot for Liam.)
Going back to fanfiction, it’s been known for having a negative reputation, particularly among those that aren’t aware of the community. What would you say to those that think fanfiction is only for certain type of person/group of people?
I actually never knew fanfiction had a negative reputation until about a week ago. I guess there are two reasons it has a bad reputation -the writing may not be very good and it’s racy. Writing can be good or bad no matter what genre it is, it’s just the main writers of fanfiction are teenage girls.
The writing may not be very advanced, but they can improve and posting their stories online helps them to because of the feedback you can get. And about the racy issue, I think people just need to be a little bit more open minded. If it isn’t for you, then it isn’t for you and you don’t have to read it. But fanfiction is very popular so that means a lot of people do like it and eventually it won’t have such a negative reputation and will have a wider audience.
“Write out all your ideas and storyline, make a timeline; sit down away from any distractions. Add whatever little random things that come to your mind while writing.”
That’s kind of liberating in a way; not being aware of the negative connotations around it and just doing your own thing. Do you think, from your experience, that fanfiction is a good platform for young writers to develop their skills?
Oh yes. You can get instant feedback. In the process of writing The Last Girl, I learned that I need to work on my character development and not being so choppy with scenes. I have gotten a few negative comments but I try to use them to improve my writing.
What tips would you give to young authors out there?
I am in advanced classes in school so I get a lot of work. School is very important so I focus on that first and then my writing. By the time I’m finished with homework it’s either midnight or I’m too tired to write. My advice would be set aside time for writing and do not procrastinate. Write out all your ideas and storyline, make a timeline; sit down away from any distractions. Add whatever little random things that come to your mind while writing.
Are you working on any other projects with Movellas? What are are your future plans for writing?
The Last Girl is going to be a trilogy. I am currently writing the second book and am posting it on Movellas. After I am done with that, I’ll write the third. I do have a few ideas for other stories some that are fanfiction; ones that are romance novels. Hopefully, they turn out like The Last Girl. But even if they don’t, I am very happy with how everything has worked out and am very grateful to my readers, who call themselves ‘The Last Girls’, and Movellas. I could not have done this without them.