One of the most significant things acclaimed urban fantasy author Angela Roquet can give aspiring teen writers is proof self-publishing can work.
Roquet, a Sedalia native and now Lake Ozark resident, attempted to publish the first book in her "Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc." series — "Graveyard Shift" — through an agent and publishing house. After difficulty with this process, the emergence of Kindle and research on how to self-publish, Roquet decided to become an "indie author."
Over the past seven years, thousands of the "Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc." books have sold through Kindle and other online outlets, with her seventh and final book in the series, "Hellfire and Brimstone," selling more than 500 copies on Kindle alone since its release Oct. 10.
Roquet is motivated to share her learned knowledge of self-publishing her supernatural tales with teenagers. She created a workshop program in 2015 to teach teenage writers how to compose a short story and ultimately publish their work.
Eleven short stories written by Sedalia and Osage Beach area teens have been published in "Budding Bards: Volume 2," with a book signing scheduled from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at the Osage Beach Library.
"There is a lot of ambition there for these teens, and in this workshop, they see their work can be published no matter what," Roquet said. "Anybody can publish a book, but a lot of books that come out are not well-formatted or edited or have good cover designs. This workshop shows them, yes, you can do indie publishing, and you can have it done well — gives them direction to become great writers."
Reaping a rewarding career
Roquet's description of her home office mirrors the look of a library preparing to open. Books of all genres — fantasy to nonfiction — are double-stacked in shelves and forming towers on the floor.
"It is surprising the floor hasn't caved in. I'm very impressed; our house is apparently very structurally sound," Roquet said with a laugh.
Laura Hamilton, Christopher Moore, MaryJanice Davidson, Kim Harrison and Mary Roach wrote many of those books. These writers, some of Roquet's favorites, inspired her flagship series. However, the series also derived from her interest in world religions.
Roquet attended a Lutheran grade school before graduating from Smith-Cotton High School in Sedalia. That transition from private to public school exposed her to religions beyond the only one she thought existed as a child.
"Once I got to middle school and high school and heard about friends who are Hindu or Buddhist, it opened up my eyes. I just became fascinated," she said.
Through high school, she worked on epic fantasy books. Some were tucked away in drawers for no one to read, but one — a "Lord of the Rings"-style tale for girls she finished at age 21 — Roquet decided to pursue getting published. Even though attempts to move that book forward with an agent and publishing house did not come to fruition, Roquet still wrote stories. The "Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc." series was soon born.
Vampires were all the rage at the time Roquet began thinking about writing a series. However, she wanted to do something original, and a grim reaper in the afterlife where all religions are merged together seemed appealing and marketable.
The series centers on Lana Harvey, who is a lousy reaper. She resides in Limbo City, the modern capital of the collective afterlives, where she likes to stick it to the man (the legendary Grim Reaper himself) by harvesting the bare minimum of souls required of her, according to Roquet's website. However, when a shocking promotion falls in her lap, Harvey learns something that could unravel the fabric of eternity.
Roquet's first Lana Harvey book, "Graveyard Shift," was picked up by an agent, but unexpected circumstances landed her back at square one trying to find her novel a home. At the same time, e-books were becoming a hot commodity, and Roquet decided to self-publish.
Since releasing "Graveyard Shift" in October 2009, Roquet has produced six more books in the series. She has reached international bestseller status on Kindle from a box set of her first three books and reaped high sales from audio books of the first five novels in the series.
Inspiring 'Budding Bards'
Roquet's success encouraged her to get involved with the community. She created a three-day workshop for teens at the Boonslick Regional Library, holding the first program in July 2015. Five teens attended to learn about developing a short story, exchange notes with Roquet and ultimately have their work self-published through Amazon's CreateSpace.
Four stories were a part of the "Budding Bards: Volume 1," which was presented to the community through a book signing where the collection of the teens' short stories was sold to guests, family and friends. The money raised from book sales went to the library's youth programs.
Roquet held the workshop again this year, this time reaching out to the Osage Beach Library. Two teens attended the July 2016 workshop in Osage Beach. She held a second workshop in Sedalia, where all five teens from the inaugural event returned and 14 teens total participated.
"Nine of those kids got their final stories in to be published, and both teens from the Osage Beach workshop also are in the book," Roquet said.
From 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at the Osage Beach Library, the community is invited to meet the 11 young authors and purchase "Budding Bards: Volume 2" for $10, with proceeds benefiting the Osage Beach Library.
Camdenton Library will add the three-day workshop next year, with Osage Beach and Boonslick Regional libraries also offering the activities again, Roquet said.
"It is nice to give them that direction that I didn't have as a kid, muddling my way through trying to get my stories published," Roquet said.
Building beyond a flagship series
Roquet's Lana Harvey series has allowed her to quit her longtime work as a graphic designer to become a full-time author. Her husband, Paul, also quit his job in beverage sales, becoming a stay-at-home dad for their now 5-year-old son, Xavier, and helping market Roquet's books. The two decided to relocate from their native Sedalia to Lake of the Ozarks shortly after making those professional transitions.
"People think it is either a hobby, and you don't make enough to live on or you are Stephen King. There is a very large gray area in the middle with authors who have never hit the New York Times bestsellers list but make a very comfortable living writing and publishing books," she said.
While building up her Lana Harvey series, Roquet has pumped out three short stories involving the reaper heroine. She is also working with fellow urban fantasy author Kory Shrum to produce "Limbo City Lights," which will feature three new Lana Harvey short stories. She plans to complete an illustrated guide to Limbo City and the Death Deck in December.
Roquet also has gained traction for her paranormal romance series, "Spero Heights." With two books out now and a third, "The Midnight District," set to release next spring, the "Spero Heights" novels involve romantic and dramatic relations between the supernaturals who have "lost their bump in the night" and seek refuge at the little town tucked in the Ozark Mountains.
With Lana Harvey book signings still planned, including one from 1-3 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Camdenton Library, Roquet is ready to move forward with her next book series, "Blood Vice." The book follows Jenna Skye, who succumbs to being a vampire on her first case investigating a supernatural brothel and teaming up with a young werewolf to track down a notorious vampire and eventually join the "Blood Vice."
"I have 10 books already outlined in this series, which I plan to release over the next five to six years and the first set to release next year," Roquet said. "Lana's story arc felt like it was winding down to a natural end, and I found myself yearning for a clean slate, yearning to introduce new characters and new worlds."