The Writer's Voice: The Wattys Winner behind Lead Me Astray

The Writer’s Voice is back, and what a way to kick off the new year, our first interview will be featuring Wattpad Star and 2019 Wattys winner Sondi Warner. It’s really nice to have you on here, can you tell our audience a little bit about yourself?

I am indie author Sondi Warner, and I go by the penname, “Lesserknown1.” For nearly 15 years, I worked behind-the-scenes as a ghostwriter, freelance copywriter, script-doctor, and general Jack of All Trades. But that wild ride ended with the untimely shop closure of my longest running ghostwriting client.

Mired in unemployment blues, I had trouble jimmying the lock on the door to the Gig Economy. So, I took the sage advice of my then fourteen-year-old daughter and ditched the markets, sales figures, and industry politics to work on a leisure project. The kiddo suggested I post just for fun on Wattpad. It turned out to be my best decision of the decade.

This book you ended up writing, Lead Me Astray, I’ve seen it, I just got started with it and I can understand why the book has amassed so much attention, but can you tell the visitors of The Ebook Review more about it?

LEAD ME ASTRAY, a queer polyamorous love story, went on to win the Watty’s 2019, which is a pretty dope competition that pitted me against thousands of other contestants. As a result of the win, I was given the title of Wattpad Star, and I joined the story-sharing platform’s talent roster of digital influencers. I look forward to sharing the e-book with your amazing readers.

LEAD ME ASTRAY is exclusively on Wattpad, and in this book, Aurie Edison, the victim of a hit-and-run, has the hots for the non-binary Empath who sees her ghost and the rogue werewolf investigating her case, but before falling in bed together, these supernaturals must catch the vampire who may have killed her.

Truly one of a kind. But now, we have questions, questions I have a feeling my viewers are just itching to know. Firstly, what inspired you to write Lead Me Astray, is it personal to you, or mere fiction?

LEAD ME ASTRAY absolutely comes from a personal place, although the events chronicled in the story are too fantastical even for my life. The main character, Aurie Edison, grapples with having made safe, smart decisions throughout her entire nineteen years only to lose big time. I could relate to that. Before I started writing this book, my little family had gone through a period of homelessness. I remember thinking, “I worked hard, I spent wisely, I partnered with someone ambitious and hard-working, and we still ended up here.” All it took was a workplace injury to cut our income in half. So, as I sat down to brainstorm ideas for the project, I tackled themes of fate, loss, second chances. The story almost wrote itself because, at the same time, we found a bungalow in a small town where the cost of living was cheaper. My partner moved on to work for a better company. I started to gain traction on Wattpad with each update to the serialized novel. Likewise, Aurie and her lovers went through tons of ups and downs, but she finally learned to live her best life. It was like Destiny was telling me, “Honey, you had to hit rock bottom in order to bounce back.”

I have never heard more inspiring words. Knowing this, it builds a background for a book that I would have read as just another Wattpad book, it’s more than that. Onto the next question, what was your hardest scene to write and why?

LEAD ME ASTRAY switches perspectives, telling the story from Aurie, Mys, and Zyr’s points of view. The chapters from Mys’ perspective were the most difficult to write. Mys is Japanese American. They’re non-binary. They’re a gamer. They’re a sex worker, a burlesque dancer. Different traits required paying close attention to voice while writing this character because I didn’t want a token diversity plug. I wanted someone who felt authentic. The nights of screaming at the manuscript paid off. Several readers have confessed Mys is their favorite character. (Mine, too.)

Oh, picking favorites I see, wonderful, I think I also do that, so it’s all good. But now I’ve seen your character names, and they’re unique, we have names like Aurie, Mys and even Zyr, how did you come up with these character names?

Aurie’s name popped in my head without an obvious source of inspiration. I later expanded it to Aurelia, which happens to be my middle name. It means, “Golden.” I came up with Mys as sort of a play on words. Mys sounds like Miss, could be short for Mysterious. I felt it was apropos since Mys is quite enigmatic. Finally, Zyr Ravani’s name took the most effort. ‘Zyr’ is a creative name without a clear meaning, but Ravani is an ancestral surname. This character is Pakistani American.

This book just has so much depth and diversity, now we have a Pakistani American character, wow. I can’t wait to get some time on my hand, this might be my next read. But before I get off track, there were obviously things that you removed from the plot, we want to know what you edit out of Lead Me astray?

It’s probably easier to tell you what I didn’t edit out. My writing process can be chaotic. I edit throughout, and I joke with friends that each chapter goes through at least fifty rewrites. I also warn my readers on Wattpad who are keeping up with INTO THE WILD DARK, the follow-up to LEAD ME ASTRAY. If you’re reading along as I post chapter updates, then you’re not getting top quality. Things you see this week may disappear the next. However, trust the process. And keep reading, keep commenting, keep giving me weekly feedback because I use that to make the writing better. Your critiques are a godsend.

Ah feedback, a writer’s fuel, it’s nice to know that you’re open to improvements even after reaching such a high. I think I speak for my audience when I ask, how many hours a day did you dedicate to writing this book?

Let’s just say I don’t have a life. That’s the short answer. When I’m writing a book, I usually work twelve- to sixteen-hour shifts, especially when editing is involved. I write three to four days a week. You have to understand I used to be a ghostwriter. Diligence and constancy were key in those days, and it’s hard to break the habit. Last year, I added building an author platform to my to-do list. So, now my shifts can extend from eighteen to twenty hours. It’s a constant, constant thing—planning, creating content, making vlogs, writing, editing, connecting with co-creators, engaging on social media. Some people get the impression success comes easily to a chosen few. (It has never been easy for me.) Or they think success comes down to luck. There is luck involved, but there’s so much grind and hustle in the meantime. Whatever you see me produce—even if it’s a 27-second teaser trailer on Twitter—you better believe I made it myself, and I put hours into the planning and execution. I care about my readers and my work like my life depends on it. In a way, it does.

Forget Wonder Woman, you’re a hero as it is, keeping up with this schedule and still having time to parent? Astonishing. Now, Lead Me Astray is a Wattys winner amassing nearly forty thousand reads, making you a very popular author, do you have any advice for other authors who would want to get to that pont?

First, my inbox on Wattpad is always open. While I rarely have time to read every story link that is sent to me, I make time to give honest answers to specific questions. Next, write to the best of your ability. Edit to make it better. Get critiques and feedback from fellow writers. Make sure the work you’re showcasing is a positive reflection of your skills. Also, learn to market yourself. Back when I had an indie publishing business, I spent weeks poring through blogs, YouTube videos, anything I could get my hands on that delivered marketing and branding advice. I frequently hear writers say, “Oh, I could never do that! It’s so egotistical.” It isn’t. If you put massive effort into your work, and you want to share it with others, then don’t be afraid to go to your social media following and announce it to the world. Finally, treat your readers like you want to be treated. They’re not obligated to read you. Don’t put silly clauses in your Wattpad updates telling people you won’t post a new chapter until you get X-amount of votes or views. Try to respond to every comment. It doesn’t hurt to send a personal thank you message to those who add your books to their reading lists. Thank your followers. Most of the rules of engagement can be summed up to Be Professional and Be Polite.

Professional and Polite, I’m storing that for future use, and, adding to my previous question, what’s next for Lead Me Astray, what other goals do you have for this already successful book?

I’m glad you asked! LEAD ME ASTRAY is part of an ongoing series, and 2020 is the year for my current work-in-progress, INTO THE WILD DARK. I’ve written the books in a unique way that lets you enjoy them in any sequence. So, add LEAD ME ASTRAY and INTO THE WILD DARK to your reading list today. I want to know what you think of both.

Definately, and finally why would you advise the visitors of thee-book review to read Lead Me Astray during their 2020 reading challenge?

Collide the fresh, contemporary feel of shows like HBO’s Euphoria with the darkly tempting American Gods, and you get LEAD ME ASTRAY. If you like your vampires, werewolves, angels, and demons walking the familiar streets you know, versus the fantasy avenues of the past, then you’ll love this book. It has murder, intrigue, sex, and car chases all wrapped up in a fast-paced plot that will suck you in from page-one. Not to mention, there’s more diversity than you can cram into a hashtag. Don’t be the last to know why everybody on Wattpad is whispering about LEAD ME ASTRAY. Read it today and drop your review on Goodreads.

And for those of you who enjoy getting to know the writers behind your favorite books, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram. On Twitter, be the first to see trailers and aesthetics for the Overlay City Series, and sneak a behind-the-scenes peek at my day-to-day life. On Instagram, I post weekly IGTV videos, and I host a monthly IG Live broadcast where I answer your questions right then and there. Retweet, Like, and Share to your heart’s content. #GetAwayWithIt

I can’t wait to meet you!

There it is guys, 2019 Watty’s Winner, Sondi Warner, want to connect with her?

Find her:

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