When Patti Larsen listens to her inner voice, it’s always telling her to get her writer mojo moving.
In fact, the voice of one of her characters, a half witch/half demon teenager Sydlynn “Syd” Hayle, is so insistent that her stories be told that she’s spawned an entire series of young adult (YA) books.
“I’m actually starting a new book today,” says Larsen from her Alexandra home where she spends the majority of her days and nights writing.
With 27 published titles to her credit in just a few years, Larsen continues to write more to keep up with the online demand for her books.
This full-time writing passion is a definite shift for this former hair salon owner, who harboured a lifelong desire to write books for a living.
“I grew up in a family where it was all about fun reading because, obviously, it was the time before the Internet. Of course we had TV, but my parents were both huge readers; my mom was into romance, but dad was hardcore science fiction/fantasy, so I grew up on Lord of the Rings and Dragonriders of Pern, Isaac Asimov, the really deep stuff.”
When she was 12, her friend introduced her to her first young adult novel — one of the Nancy Drew adventure series, which she devoured in two hours.
“By the time I finished that book, I realized, ‘I could do this,’” she remembers of this moment of literary epiphany.
“I just had this voice in my head saying, ‘Hey, this doesn’t seem so hard.’ Because the books Dad had me reading were hard, but the young adult (books) were so straightforward and obviously I related to it because they were closer to my age.
“I finished the book, I looked up and both of my parents were sitting on the sofa, both reading, and I said, ‘I’m going to write a book . . . .’”
So Larsen began patiently plucking the words from an old manual typewriter and eventually graduated to a brand new electric typewriter with corrector tape that her father purchased especially for her.
“So I wrote all through junior high and high school, just totally absorbed with it. I finished my first book when I was 16,” she remembers.
“(The mistake I made was) I started writing fantasy and fiction, so rather than trusting that 12 year old who said, ‘Go with this,’ I instead dove into what I was familiar with and just didn’t have the skill sets at that point.”
Writing pretty much took a backseat in Larsen’s early adult years until she took a journalism course in 1992 and actually learned how to outline a story.
“I loved it. I loved learning how to write that way because it was totally different than what I had learned before. But I didn’t like the job (of reporter),” she remembers.
Her hair stylist career came next, which suited her hands-on creativity but left her wanting something more.
“It wasn’t filling me up and it got to the point where I didn’t want to go to work every day,” she says.
Larsen did some improv work, sang in a girl band for which she wrote songs, and then fell into screenwriting, which led to a TV show.
“I wrote a full length feature and then we filmed it, not knowing that we couldn’t. We had no clue because I had nobody to tell me ‘You can’t do that.’ So I just decided to do it,” she says.
“So I bought a how-to book, almost like film-making for dummies, and I bought some equipment and we made this 100-minute feature that actually got screened during the Atlantic Film Festival on Eastlink Television. That was really exciting. It was so close to what I wanted but it wasn’t quite right.”
Around the same time, Larsen’s niece introduced her to the Harry Potter series, which she devoured with the same gusto as that first young adult novel many years before.
“It was like that 12-year-old girl in me woke up again inside: ‘wow, this is it! This is it!’ I began reading tons and tons of YA, to the point of excluding every other genre that I usually used to read. I just couldn’t get enough . . . ,” she remembers.
“It’s almost like — I’m not going to say an innocence — but there’s an openness about the stories being told. It just so speaks to the teenager I used to be.”
And so in 2009 Larsen revisited her passion for writing novels, only this time in a whole new way.
“Literally that night I woke up at two-thirty in the morning with a girl’s voice in my head and she said, ‘Get out of bed. Get up right now.’ And she wouldn’t leave me alone. So I got up and went to my office,” she says.
“I know it sounds crazy but it’s true. It was crystal clear. She (Syd) said, ‘You need to write this down. My mom’s a witch. My dad’s a demon. And I want to be ordinary.’ And from that came my flagship series, the Hayle Coven Novels.”
Larsen outlined her concept and passed off chapters to her niece and her sister as they emerged.
“Two weeks later I had a 95,000-word book and they loved it — they were so excited — and I loved it,” she says.
By the middle of that summer Larsen had another book written, but she had no agent or publishing prospects.
She sold her hair salon and in January 2010 became a full-time writer.
She started a blog, wrote more books and continued to look for an agent and a publisher until a good friend, United States author Joseph Paul Haines, questioned her about it.
“He said, ‘Patti, what are you doing? You’re an entrepreneur and a businesswoman and you have been for a long time. Why are you looking for a boss?’ I was like, yeah?, especially in this day and age when the Internet makes things so simple.”
And so she entered the world of self-publishing, starting with a four-book action adventure series, The Hunted, the first book of which earned a P.E.I. Book Awards fiction prize.
The coup came when she discovered Amazon KDP Select, Kindle Direct Publishing program where authors can have their books promoted during free give-away periods.
Larsen gave away close to 40,000 copies of Run. The beauty of a series is that readers then wanted to purchase the sequels as well.
In the meantime, she had self-published the first of the Hayle Coven Novels, Family Magic.
“Timing (is everything). The publishers are dealing with multiple offers, sometimes hundreds of offers, depending on the publisher; whereas I’m just dealing with me. So Patti Larsen Books is just Patti Larsen books. So when I write a book, get it edited and get the cover designed, as soon as it’s formatted and ready I can sell it. I don’t have to wait in line . . . ,” she says.
Almost three years later Larsen has reached a point where she’s earning about as much as she was in the salon business.
“For me, it was all about producing product: more product, more product. When I’m writing, I’m a writer. I’m a creator. But as soon as I’m done writing I’m a businesswoman,” she says.
Larsen now has a huge fan base, but the voices from within still dictate what she writes.
“It’s almost like when I sit down to write I don’t choose what point of view, the characters tell me so if it’s first person it’s like they’re in my head writing it, and if it’s third person it’s like they’re sitting beside me and telling me what to write. It’s wild,” Larsen laughs.
“You’ve heard the term ‘writer’s voice — find your writer’s voice’ and to me that’s exactly what it means, it’s paying attention to the voices.”
AT A GLANCE
The more than 20 novels by Patti Larsen include:
- The Hayle Coven Novels
- The Hayle Coven Histories
- The Hunted
- The Diamond City Trilogy
- The Clone Chronicles
- In Other Works
- For more information, visit www.pattilarsen.com.