By Malia Erickson
Malia Erickson: What inspired you to write Trust Your Intuition: 100 Ways to Transform Anxiety and Depression for Stronger Mental Health? In one of your personal shares, you explain how you found inspiration for your first novel, Land of Blue. Did you have any moment of clarity or strong intuitive pull to write Trust Your Intuition?
Jill Sylvester: I actually planned to release my second YA fiction novel next, one in a series of seven books on the theme of intuition. Then, as things tend to happen, the Universe redirected me to write and publish Trust Your Intuition as my next release. So I listened and here we are. I had always intended to write self-help. I think it’s what people expected from me. I had just planned to write self-help down the road.
Malia: Since you are a therapist by profession, I was surprised that a self-help book was the second book you wrote. Could you give us any insight into why you started with a novel for kids?
Jill: I wrote The Land of Blue as a way to reach children, and their parents. The Land of Blue is essentially a self-help book under the guise of fantasy fiction.
Malia: While reading Trust Your Intuition, I often felt like I was reading advice a close friend would be giving me. How did you cultivate such an approachable voice in your book? What was that process like? Is how you write similar to how you speak with your clients?
Jill: Thank you for that. My intention for this book is for it to be an easy to read, easy to apply kind of self-help, with not a ton of theory but more like guidance you would give to a friend. I enjoyed the process of writing this book. It’s how I live my life, so it felt quite natural to share in this way. And yes, I would say how I write is similar to how I speak with my clients, but you would have to ask them.
Malia: In Trust Your Intuition you mention how the tips can apply to adults, teenagers, and even children. You offer stories from your personal life and how you implement these strategies in your children’s lives. Who is your intended audience for Trust Your Intuition?
Jill: My intended audience is motivated adults, and adolescents who are ready for change.
Malia: You mention having also struggled with depression and anxiety, and give many specific examples of how depression and anxiety have affected your life. How was it for you to open up, and share potentially painful memories with your readers? Why did you chose to include these “personal shares”?
Jill: I value authenticity and respect those authors and teachers who share their triumphs and struggles with me. Testing the waters, I had included some “personal shares” in my first draft and then asked a few beta readers to give me feedback. All of them encouraged me to not only keep what I had written but to share more of myself, so after a deep breath, I stepped through the door.
Malia: After each of the 100 ways, you include a “Call to Action” section. How did you develop these prompts? Is this technique something you employ in your professional practice as well?
Jill: Call To Action is a crucial part of the book and a part of my counseling practice. If we are not taking action steps toward what we say we desire, then we can talk about theories all day long, but nothing is going to change. Each Call To Action is a motivator for the reader to reflect, draw or journal their commitment to themselves for growth.
Malia: Throughout the book, you also reference other books and resources that have helped inspire and guide you throughout your life, such as Leslie Kenton’s Beat Stress or the movie The Secret. Would you consider these resources research for Trust Your Intuition or more inspiration? Was including these other books, podcasts, and inspirational people a way to spark curiosity in your readers and encourage them to learn more about the power of intuition?
Jill: Resources included in the book are for inspiration should readers want to further explore the topic of developing stronger mental health and health and wellness in general.
Malia: One of my friends, an avid yogi, joked that yoga should be step one instead of step eighty in transforming depression and anxiety into stronger mental health. Could you give us some insight into how you chose to order these steps? What was the writing process like? How did you decide on the ultimate structure of the book? Why do you think it works?
Jill: I organized the book into sections, from those lower frequency feelings of “Hold On” when we feel anxiety at its most intense, leading up to—once you stay the course and do the work—a place where we “Feel Better.” In order to arrive in that place it’s a practice, a discipline, an intention to live fully and be well. The book was organized with that trajectory in mind.
Malia: Did you intend the steps to be read in order? Or did you envision readers flipping to a random page and going from there? Or a bit of both reading styles?
Jill: For the first read, I would encourage reading in order. There’s an ascension to the process that I hope inspires and motivates readers to apply to their own life and to believe that that’s possible. After that, flipping to a random page, or section, pending where a person finds themselves in any particular moment, would likely serve best.
Malia: What were some of the most challenging parts of writing and publishing this book? How did you overcome and work through these setbacks or difficulties? Was there any particular one of your 100 ways that you found particularly helpful as you went through the writing, revising, and publishing process?
Jill: The most challenging part of writing I’ve found, for both fiction and self-help, is to organize and sort through the information in order to piece the puzzle together. For this book, I had so much information in my head that I had to literally release it on paper in a SPLAT format, then have my first developmental editor (Lisa Tener) help me tease through the writing to see what should stay or go, and then to organize the material in a cohesive manner from there. As messy a process as it is for me in the initial stages, I love the satisfaction of putting it all together.
Malia: What steps did you take to getting Trust Your Intuition published? How did you find an editor? What was that process like for you?
Jill: I had worked with Lisa Tener on a memoir back in 2009 (someday, someday…) so I contacted her to work with me on this self-help book as my developmental editor. Lisa guided the process for me so that initially I might see other points of view in order to include additional information for my readers and also to help me go deeper into my ideas in order to explain things for the reader. From there, I was able to have another few rounds of editing from beta readers and then on to a copy-editor and proofreader. Also, I had opened a publishing company (Old Tree House) to release Land of Blue and had hired a publishing service I highly recommend (PublishingSmith.com) to assist me in that process. It was a similar process this time around for Trust Your Intuition.
Malia: Since your first book was a fictional novel geared towards young adults, and Trust Your Intuition is a self-help book, I imagine that the publishing process for both differed greatly. Could you compare and contrast the publishing processes for us? As an already published author, was publishing Trust Your Intuition easier than your first book? Was there anything you felt more prepared for now that you’ve already published a book?
Jill: I knew what to expect this time around after working on Land of Blue, so it was essentially following the same steps. It was worth it to me to hire a service like Publishing Smith that would take care of the details like managing the graphic design process of creating both the interior and exterior layout of the book, the indexing, finalizing files for printing, listing the book on Amazon, etc.
Malia: Trust Your Intuition is released on May 31st. In the weeks before publication, how do you plan to promote your book?
Jill: We have a monthly Old Tree House newsletter that goes out the first Thursday of every month that gives readers a little dose of positivity and offers health and wellness resources to better their lives. If your readers are interested, they may subscribe by visiting my website www.jillsylvester.com where they can also obtain a free motivation morning audio available on my May blog, in order to start their day. I also use my social media channels to promote my books: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and my website where people can find updated information on my books and Planting the Seeds products, social and emotional well-being cards for kids and their caregivers. Really, I rely on my people to promote my books: my clients, my readers, to spread the word. I trust they will let others know if they feel the book has value and will help someone else.