Person of Interest – Tosa East Student Author: Lily Nielsen

Emerson Neldner

When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

I didn’t, actually. I’ve always enjoyed writing and storytelling, but the Mission series had been a work in progress since I was in fifth grade, so I decided to finalize it. And when I did, my mom wanted to give copies to family and friends. The easiest way to do that was self-publishing, so I put my book on Amazon. The initial idea was that it would be really cheap — or even free — because it was just supposed to be for family, but KDP (the publishing program I use) wouldn’t let me charge less than $9.00, so I bumped it up to $10.99 and officially decided to put it out on the market. Kristina Naydonova, who is the youngest bestselling author ever, also reached out to me and encouraged me to make it official.

How often do you write?

Well, I sat down to write, only to answer these questions instead, if that answers your question. So, never? I try to write at least once a day, but it’s hard to write a book. I’m surprised that I’ve written so much, actually.

What is one word you would use to describe the Mission series?


Give a brief overview of your book series.

The Mission series is about a girl named Audrey Michaels who is one of 100 students in the country that go to a school where they start premature training to join a US government agency. At the start of book one, her mother is declared missing in action after she goes to shut down an international terrorist organization called the Montgomery Rings. Audrey gets caught up in the Rings and it’s members as she tries to find her mother.

In your opinion, what do you think makes your books unique?

The fact that I’m a teenager, actively writing a series, is really cool, I think. They’re also a genre that isn’t super popular right now. A lot of people write fantasy, so I think it’s kind of cool that I’ve been able to be that one person who’s writing mystery and thriller.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Everything and everywhere. Especially as someone who writes crime, anything can be a motive and anything can be a weapon. I drew a lot of inspiration for book one from a book I read in fifth grade, but I eventually changed the plot completely, so it’s not that anymore. The nice thing about mysteries, is that they’re all just random facts and details that collect to form a whole plot. Just the other day, someone was talking about punch bowls, and my mind got churning and (I’m not gonna spoil it) but I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to write that down!”

What is the most difficult part of the whole process?

Besides the fact that I’m a major procrastinator, editing the book and cleaning up what a horrible mess you made on the pages is actually painful. It normally takes months to edit a book because I’m so disgusted by how bad of writing the first draft is, that I’ll choose not to look at it. That, and marketing the book so people buy it.

What did you learn after publishing your first book?

Honestly, I learned a couple hundred grammar rules that I should have learned long before writing. But, I learned a lot of random information about paper sizes and printing costs. Plus, what goes on behind closed doors when you’re financially supported by Jeff Bezos. I learned how hard it is to promote and sell a product and find a target audience. It’s all hard!

Who are some people in your life that push/inspire you to become a better writer and/or person?

Everyone! My parents are obviously the ones who wanted me to publish, but both of them are incredible storytellers, so maybe it’s in the gene pool. My editor for my most recent book is this lady named Sandi, who taught me so much during the process. And, of course, all of my friends, who I think round me out pretty well. I have a lot of friends who are both theater people and bookworms, so they all help even it out. And I have a friend from theater who likes to jokingly promote my book, and it’s obviously just an inside joke, but it actually pushes me really well, and I don’t think he knows how much that means.

Your third book came out January 15th, how are you feeling?

I am so happy! The love and support coming from readers is incredible, and I’m really relieved that all that’s left to do is let the readers enjoy it. It’s really hard to believe, actually, that I just put another book on the market. It feels like everything has changed and yet nothing has changed.

Can you see yourself going into writing as a career? Other career interests/passions?

I definitely have thought about it, but I don’t know. As much as I love writing, and it’s a dream come true to have the label ‘author’ next to my name, it’s really hard work. I think there are only so many stories that I need to tell, and mine happens to be a five part series. There’s a standalone mystery about a Princess of a Norse country that I’m working on too, and I hope to have that one out by the time I graduate. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing and I love having my books out in the world, but I don’t know if I’d be satisfied if it’s the only thing I ever accomplish. I really want to keep acting in the future, and being tied to book deals has made that hard. Even if I stop publishing after high school, I will still be writing though, I assure you that.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Guess what, babe? You’re gonna publish this one day. I know, it’s a shock to me too, but yup, you’re gonna do it. Get an editor before you release book one, and maybe try to pace out the releases more than a year apart. Also, don’t put the first drafts on Wattpad, because when people look you up, that’s what you’re going to be associated with.

What advice do you have for other young aspiring authors?

Get an editor long before you publish your first book. Seriously. Also, make sure you do a lot of research first and decide if this is what you want.