While self-publishing services have made it easier for anyone to write a book, only a handful of self-taught authors are able to write and self-publish a brilliant novel. Author Annette Stephenson is one of them.
At Vowelor, we are proud to introduce you to Annette Stephenson – a self-taught author who writes clean romance novels. She self-published her debut book ‘Divided Mountain’ in 2021 and now working on its sequel.
We had an exclusive conversation with Annette, but before we get to that, let’s know a little more about the author herself.
About the Author: Annette Stephenson
Annette Stephenson is an author from California, USA. Her debut book Divided Mountain got released in 2021. She has written 3 books and the fourth one is in the progress. Most of her stories share a common theme of emotions like love, family drama, relationships, etc.
Born in 1962, in California, Annette loved to write short stories and poems from the very young age of 10. She has been a creative person and learned to play guitar, drums, piano, etc, all by herself.
Annette is married and finds inspiration for all her writings in her husband. In 40 years of marriage, they have 3 children and 6 grandchildren.
She has worked in different professions and businesses from making sandwiches, janitorial, construction, dentistry, and even real estate.
Further, Annette discussed her childhood, her family, her hobbies, and more interesting things about herself. Read her answers below.
Tell us about your parents and family.
My parents met in high school in California. I was born in 1962. They were married in April 1961. Shortly after my birth, they separated and after my brother was born, they divorced in 1967.
My father remarried and 2 children with his wife. He served in the Vietnam Army. My mother passed away in March 2004 from advanced breast cancer. I have 2 sisters and 4 brothers. I am the oldest. My father is 80 years old and lives with his wife in Hollister, California.
At the age of 18, I moved to Oregon and met my husband. I only had 2 boyfriends in my life. The first one was in high school, and it ended when I was 17. I met my husband in April of 1981. He liked me from the first time he saw me, but I was reluctant.
After striking up a friendship observing him and his beautiful art pieces and landscape art, I fell in love with his love for natural things. He was my inspiration for Divided Mountain.
I was married on November 28, 1981. I lived in Oregon until 2013 when we decided to move to California where our children lived and see our grandchildren. We have 6 grandchildren and one on the way in December.
I never knew my father until I was 22 years old. He had been trying to find me for years after my mother moved us away from my hometown. We have been close ever since.
When and where were you born and bought up?
I was born in San Jose, California, December 18, 1962. I lived in Salinas, Hollister, and Gilroy for most of my younger years until I was 8 and we moved to San Jose. I lived in San Jose with my mother, siblings, and step-father.
I started playing drums at the age of 8 because my step-father had a drum set. My mother and he were musicians and she was a singer in a Mexican band. I joined my own band with my son and husband doing shows from 2005-2010.
I taught myself to play guitar and piano as well. I can still play the drums but no longer have a set to practice on. I am also a singer.
My mother suffered from depression and didn’t want me to finish school so, in the 10th grade, I quit school to go to work making sandwiches. That was my first job and it lasted 1 month. In 1987, I got my GED and finished high school. After that, I started to do volunteer work for my bible group. I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and have been since the age of 11.
After moving to Oregon, I worked doing janitorial with my husband. We had our own business for many years. I then got my contractor’s license and did painting and remodeling. I was very skilled in the trade.
In 2009, I decided to quit construction and study dentistry learning the skills of a dental assistant. I graduated in November 2009 but never pursued a career in that field. I continued to have my janitorial company and got my real estate license in 2018. I clean residential homes to this day, take piano lessons, and write.
What are your Qualifications?
My qualifications would be experience in writing with style and emotion. I cry sometimes when I write certain situations feeling what the character feels. Also, many of my books are from my own experiences. I have been writing for many years but couldn’t come forward to any publishing due to the fact that I was afraid to be criticized or judged.
I really believed my writing wasn’t good enough to share with the world. My husband encouraged me every day to work on my book. I refused thinking it will never get published, why bother with it? His kind words encouraged me to find a way to publish my books. I also have many trade skills and experience in many fields.
What were you like at school? Any childhood memory you would like to share.
I was very good in school. I was also in track and field winning awards at after-school meets. I love running and for years I mastered that skill and to this day I still run. I was a student and athlete.
My grades started to go down after my mother discouraged me from being in school. My home life was not the best and I developed anxiety basically bringing myself up in this world. I learned a lot on my own. I was an excellent speller. I entered spelling bees and won awards in achievements throughout my school years.
My best childhood memory was being close to my grandmothers. My mother’s mom raised me and my brothers while my mom was on the road singing and performing. She was very caring and kind to us. My father’s mother was a wonderful person as well. I never knew my grandfathers.
When I was 10, I would sit in my closet with my pencil and paper writing short stories about love and happy things. I would cut pictures out of bridal magazines and paste them on a collage and write about it. I would also write poems about romance and healing from pain. I wrote poems for many years and have them to this day.
Some of the poems and dialogue in Divided Mountain are real-life letters me and my husband wrote to each other.
What is your biggest achievement till today?
My biggest achievement is being able to write more books. I had trouble with confidence and getting the words right. I would watch romance movies like Nicolas Sparks films and study the writing. I wanted to write like that. I would picture the scenes in my mind like a movie and before I knew it, I was writing 40 pages in one day! That was huge for me.
I love clean romance stories. I feel sex or certain situations get in the way of what is in the heart of someone who is in love before marriage. The real self of a person comes out better when sexual intimacy follows through. I don’t believe in sex before marriage. I love to put sensuality in my stories to show the emotion of what love is really about.
I love that I published and let everyone out there know I have books they can enjoy. I wasn’t thinking about the money or being popular. I just wanted people to read something to make them feel good. I stand by that today. I would like to see sales of my books, but my joy is the pure enjoyment of the stories.
Which writers inspire you?
Nicolaus Sparks is my favorite author. I love his style of writing and the emotion he puts into his stories. I have most of his books. My favorite book is Message in a Bottle.
Writing is stressful at times. How do you relax your mind?
Writing is only stressful to me when I get writer’s block. I have to walk away and change it up to get inspiration. Sometimes I don’t write for a few days. I play piano and that helps me get back to writing. If I see an object or something like a tree or situation, I get on it and write something awesome and I take it from there. The piano relaxes me.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
My motivational quote or phrase is,
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
I love this because I had no confidence growing up. I wanted to stand tall and figure out how to heal from emotional neglect and pain. I had no father and I barely had a mother. It was my husband who taught me how to love.
I learned not to care what others think and not be afraid of being judged. I do not give anyone permission to bring me down and I have the power to heal and get up and try to be my own best friend.
Caring about my emotional self is very important. Self-care helped me to write some of the most beautiful, penned writings. Being in love with life kept me from going into sadness. Writing helped me manage my anxieties. No one will stand in the way of who I have become.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
The advice I would give to my younger self is to go slow. I met the man of my dreams at 18, got married before I turned 19, and had a baby at 20. I rushed into many situations hoping to find the real life out there.
Taking my time with anything I do is crucial. I focus better and I have the emotional energy to write better.
Divided Mountain took time. I was in no hurry to get it out there. But after I wrote other books, I rushed and my editing and book size flopped. I got feedback from my readers as unprofessional but a good story.
I am writing the 4th book and I am taking my time with that one to get it just right. There is so much to learn and there is nothing wrong with thinking it through and taking it slow.
What books do you like to read personally? What are you reading currently?
I like to read sometimes. I love to read my own books. I love Chip and Joanna Gaines. I am reading their books, The Magnolia Story and No Pains, No Gaines. They are very motivating for me, and Joanna has her issues with confidence as well and she made a success of her life.
I finished reading The Choice by Nicolaus Sparks. I don’t enjoy suspense or horror stories. I am more into the emotional parts of stories or motivational.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
I don’t think I would want to be the original author of any book other than mine. Writing is so personal for me. I can’t compare myself to anyone else’s work or put myself in their place.
There are a lot of books in romance that are about sex, cheating, nasty breakups, or just trashy. I wanted my romance stories to get the reader to feel the emotion, so much that they just can’t put down the book.
I love intrigue and a great ending or stories that make you cry. So I guess I could say I wouldn’t want to be the author of any other books.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start writing?
My husband makes me write. We have been through so much together. We almost broke up, many times. I have had a lot of loss in my life, and he didn’t. He was the strength and inspiration for my writing. He brought me back to life.
When in my book, Garrett didn’t mind being in the wreck of Kate’s day, that was my husband. He would get me through it, he would try to make me laugh or let me know that we can get through anything.
I had 2 miscarriages before my son was born and it killed me inside. He carried my emotions and held me like a child helping us get through it.
I also think, what would I want to see when I go to a movie. I used to write screenwriting and act out the movie parts and even cry and show strong emotion. That was deep for me, and it made the stories come to life.
Garrett is patterned after my husband. He is just like my character. Today we have been together for over 40 years.
I also started writing at a young age to get rid of emotional pain. Without going into too much private detail, I was a child abuse victim. Writing poems and stories about what could have been healed me. I also kept a journal writing down my pain and happiest moments.
What is the reason you write for; is it for the readers or your own self or some other thing?
I write for my readers. I know we all have a story to tell. Some good, some not so good. If we can see through the eyes of a story that motivates and gets the reader to smile, it is worth everything to me.
Of course, I love to write for my enjoyment, but I love to know my readers are loving what I write. I listen to their feedback and after I wrote Divided Mountain, they asked me for a sequel. So I wrote The Landscaper’s Wife. A story about Kate and what she means to the Carrington family. I love how Garrett is there for her throughout her trials and her happy times.
About Your Book: Divided Mountain
Divided Mountain is a novel about a young girl, Kate Parker, who has been through a lot in her past and yet she is determined to make things right for her family, her love, and herself. The author, Annette Stephenson, self-published this book in 2021.
Kate has faced really bad heartbreak, loneliness, and poverty. She wins over all of it. But her life brings her once again in a dilemma where she has to make choice between her loyalty for her love or her own happiness in life.
What genre is your book? What draws you to this genre?
My book is Clean Romance. I love what makes you feel good. My stories get me to breathe and take a look at what life offers someone who feels hopeless. My goal is to help my readers feel a warm sense of calm and healing.
How was the idea for the book originated? What was the inspiration behind it?
The idea for Divided Mountain was from my husband and me. One day when I was visiting his family, he wanted to take me to the attic to show me something. As I went up the stairs, there was a window with light looking out to a pond with ducks.
I sat on the wood floor, and he pulled out a box. Inside was all these beautiful drawings of old barns, cobwebs on the corner of an old barn door, a rusty hinge by a hayloft. He drew mountains, clouds, and even old outhouses with blackberries vines surrounding the building. It was breathtaking. He was shy like Garrett.
He carried a wooden box of drawing pencils with him and would just start drawing these old barns. He would take pictures and put them on canvas for me. Then he showed me some old landscape drawings he did. We still have them today and I put them on my website.
It was 2007 when we moved our business to Salem, Oregon. We bought a house, and it was going well until the crash of 2008. We lost everything. Our house, cars, credit cards, our businesses.
While I was waiting for a new place to move, I wrote Divided Mountain. I was at my desk, and I was doodling mountains. I was sad I was losing my home and started to think of what we were going through as a couple and having teenage kids still at home. Boom, just like that I said the words Divided Mountain.
What if there was a heroine in a story that helps a family who seems perfect but are divided. They are strong and beautiful potentially but are sad as a unit. Kate has her own troubles, but she knew healing herself meant helping others.
I wrote a rough draft of only 20 pages then wrote more. I let my friends be beta readers to give me their feedback. It was helpful and many told me if I publish it, they will buy it. It was just a dream at that point, and it went in my bedroom chest for years until 2015 when I started to work on editing it myself. I finished it in 2021 and found KDP to help me publish it. After writing Divided Mountain, I wrote The Shoe Box in 2008.
Kate’s character is really strong and determined. What was the inspiration behind the character?
I am the inspiration for Kate’s determination. My in-laws are very loving people who were brought up with family values. I learned how to sew, cook, bake, love, and be caring from them. I was always a determined person which is why I took up endurance running. I push myself to get a goal finished even though it was hard to finish Divided Mountain, my cheering section, my husband gave me the push to keep going.
I can relate to her and her pain. She became better after learning things the hard way. I now finish what I start, and many are fascinated by my energy and not procrastinating. I used to put things off, feeling sorry for myself and my own troubles.
I pulled myself out of a negative way of living and began to see that I was good at something, writing was my most talented feature. It motivated me to teach myself piano.
Learning to love yourself is hard for most of us but if you see the good in your own heart and talents, you will see nothing can get in the way of your goals.
What makes ‘Divided Mountains’ stand out in this genre? What should a reader expect from it?
What makes Divided Mountain stand out is Love. Kate wasn’t looking for love. She was afraid to find it, she didn’t want to get hurt. I was the same way. Her friendship with Garrett was phenomenal. It took my breath away that he was falling in love with her real heart, not her troubles or her pain. He saw who she really was.
What a reader should expect is that love comes in different forms. Callen may have had good intentions for Kate, but his way of impressing her was not what Kate was looking for. She didn’t care about money and possessions. She felt neglected by her father and love was not for her.
She loved her mother and brothers, but she couldn’t see herself in love until she met Garrett. He was beautiful, his demeanor, his love for natural things, the way he carried himself in front of Kate. Callen couldn’t give her that even though he thought what he gave was enough.
Kate’s love for Garrett was unexpected. Her bravery came when she had to reveal her love for Garrett. Kate never wanted to break someone’s heart and she had to. She had to do what was best for her. Kate became my favorite heroine. She is someone I would like to be.
The book explores so many emotions and drama. What was the hardest & the easiest thing about writing such a book?
The hardest thing about writing this story was writing Callen. I wrote him as a bit cocky, maybe he had some arrogance in him. But he was puffed up with thinking if he became rich, he’d be happy, and everyone would like him. It was painful to write a character who is in pain even though he thought success would cure that.
He was the type of man who had many girlfriends, guy friends, and a father who tried to give and give and it still wasn’t enough for Callen. He too had to learn the hard way to change his ways.
The easiest thing to write was Garrett. I have known my husband since we were teenagers and I know what he loves. Writing Garrett was soothing and enjoyable. I knew he was going to be loved by anyone who read a book about a talented landscaper who knew how to help someone feel loved.
Any special experience about ‘Divided Mountains’ that you would like to share.
The only special experience is that this book is based on my and my husband’s relationship.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I really want to be a full-time writer. It was my dream since I was 10. I have so much more to write about and stories that are just waiting to be made. I still clean houses and I am wanting to get back into real estate, but I think writing is what I love more than anything.
Are you working on your new project? What will be your next book about?
My 4th book is called The Tree at Lindley Park. It is such a wonderful story with a female as the main character. She has made herself strong despite growing up in foster care all her life when her mother abandoned her at a local hospital.
I love to use females as the main character because I believe in female success and strength. We don’t get enough recognition for how much we can do in life. We are naturally nurturing, and power-driven if we let ourselves. That is how I am in real life.
What does success mean to you as an Author?
Success means hard work. I am not power-driven by money. My success is from what I expect as an author. I know what readers like, what gives them the power to heal and motivate.
Many from my fanbase tell me they love the deep emotions my stories give them. It takes them to a world like no other. I want to do writing for them. I want them to make me their favorite and tell their friends about a feel-good story that has heart.
I would love to see sales of my book, to know my books are getting sold to anyone who appreciates a good book and the hard work that was put into it.
What are your thoughts on the Self-publishing industry?
Self-publishing is HARD! I made so many mistakes on my own because of limited funds. I thought it shouldn’t be hard since I can spell, and I have good grammar. Nope, not so. KDP doesn’t catch all of the punctuation errors and spelling. Or the spacing.
I sent them my manuscript and it was off leaving blank pages and the chapter titles were off-center. I had to unpublish my books to change the sizes and fonts, so the book looked polished on Kindle.
I’m a bit of a perfectionist so KDP said as long as it doesn’t ruin the storyline, it’s okay. To me, it wasn’t since some of my readers said the grammar was off. If I could afford it, I would love to hire editors and publishers.
When I first wanted to publish Divided Mountain, I got lots of no’s. It was devastating but I continued to keep trying. For now, it’s all I have but in the future, I would like that to change.
One learning that you’d like to pass on to young debut authors.
What I would like to pass on to authors is don’t give up on your dream. Go slow with it. Write from your heart. Find motivation through what you love.
I keep a pad with me so if I find an inspirational thought, I write it down for future books. I close my eyes and act out the scenes in my mind, what do I really want this book to portray? What am I looking for that will inspire readers to want more of my books?
Authors should make what they write personal, their own fingerprint. Thoughts and ideas come from those who really want it and work hard to get it. I write down things in pen and paper, draw it out, act it out. Be your own director. Like writing a screenplay, get deep into it.
Your opinion about Vowelor
To be honest, when someone said they loved my book on Instagram, I was nervous. I’m not a big social media person and I was skeptical about a stranger wanting to market my book. I apologize for that, but I am a private person.
Even doing this interview was odd for me, but I get it. Vowelor had my best interests at heart and that was important to me. I know they were patient and sincere about being as real as possible with me and my needs.
Divided Mountain is a wonderful book, but on Amazon, it is not getting sold. I put my trust in Vowelor and I have hopes to see real sales and getting my book out there soon. I know these things take time but with hard work and my support, Vowelor will get it done!