Stephanie Spong

Stephanie Spong, wearing her favorite Leadville winter head covering, displays her novel, “Tōru: Wayfarer Returns.”

When Stephanie Spong decided to become a novelist, she didn’t do it in small steps.

Instead, in November 2014, she became involved in the National Novel Writing Month and turned out 50,000 words of what is today “Tōru: Wayfarer Returns,” the first novel in her Sakura Steam Series.

In the two months after November she added 38,000 more words and then spent the spring editing the novel.

After mailing out 45 queries and having five readings (one asked to see her next novel), she decided to self-publish.

Self-publishing can be a relatively easy process when done through Amazon, but authors have to sign away many of their rights, Spong said, so although she has used Amazon to publish her book, she also has formed her own Leadville-based publishing company, Palantir Press.

She said she spent as much time on publishing as she did on writing, and plans an equal amount of time on marketing her novel.

“I didn’t know you could grow up to be a writer,” Spong said. Now her goals include publishing two books a year, and she’s already working on her second novel.

This isn’t her first foray into writing, however. At one time she was living in Los Angeles writing screenplays, one of which was optioned.

But her current book is an offshoot of her exploration into steampunk here in Leadville two years ago.

“I read two dozen novels and discovered most steampunk novels took place in the Wild West or Victorian England,” Spong said.

Instead she selected Japan for a setting. This wasn’t an unusual choice as she had been an exchange student in Japan while in high school, minored in Japanese in college and then spent two years working there. Her first husband was Japanese, and her book is dedicated to her first mother in law.

The time frame is Japan is the 1850s, and although the book is a fantasy, the historical characters are real, and Spong kept as close to the historical records as possible.

Spong said there are two kinds of writers: those who write by the seat of their pants and the plotters who use an outline. She is the latter, and said that an outline helps her jump ahead if she gets bogged down in a particular part.

But not everything goes by the plan. Spong said that the one character that appears to be everyone’s favorite, Jiro, “just showed up and took over.”

Spong describes the book as follows: “An alternate history of the tumultuous period from the opening of Japan in 1853 to the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The volume covers the year prior to the American Commodore Perry’s arrival in Japan and follows the hero and his allies as they lead Japan through a massively compressed industrial revolution, dramatically altering that pivotal moment in history in their favor.”

It is published under the name Stephanie R. Sorensen, the name coming from her maternal grandmother.

Learn more about Spong’s book at the Colorado Mountain College library, where she will make a presentation on Friday, Jan. 29, at noon. The book, $16.95 in softcover, will also be available at the Book Mine in Leadville or through Amazon on Kindle at $7.50.

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