There are many reasons why someone begins to write a book. Maybe it’s a spark of inspiration that comes when out walking one day or maybe it’s to fulfill a promise to share a story that’s been burning inside for some time. Tessa Shaffer had always wanted to write too but it was grief and the promise to live with no regrets that got her started.
Tessa began jotting down thoughts, poems and lyrics in a journal the day her best friend and cousin passed away in what became the first step of a ten-year journey to share their story with the world and heal. She dipped in and out of the project for many years and, convinced that having a deadline would help her get it finished, she set a date for her book launch. On the days Tessa found writing tough, she was able to refocus her mind on the book as a celebration, sometimes working on the event itself. She found that, through action, words would eventually flow again. And, it was only at the end that the title ‘Heaven Has No regrets’ came to her. She felt it was what her cousin would want the story to get across.
A profound experience
I found reading Heaven Has No Regrets a profoud experience. Whether readers are grieving, been through it or fear one day it will come, the story has so much to teach. It’s written from three perspectives in a stream of consciousness, which reflects grieving. As it’s based on real experiences, the voices speak from a place of truth and the events feel authentic. Unusually, it’s constructed of snippets, rather than chapters, that are woven together beautifully and give the story a feel of pace even though it’s not at all rushed. Reading it, I felt very privileged, as it has the intimacy of a journal yet it is punctuated with words of wisdom that reach out.
The book says a lot and the strongest message I took away is that wherever you are in life, whatever’s happened to you, your experiences are part of what you are today and you shouldn’t regret that. Certainly, in my experience, more tears are shed in regret than grief. Tessa tells me she’s had such a supportive response from readers who have been moved by the messages in the book.
Support can be all around for indie authors
With such a profound story to tell, I’m glad that Tessa has so much support. She is fortunate to have an aunt who is a professional editor and this had two benefits for Tessa. Firstly, it helped her make her work the best she could make it. Secondly, as they are close, Tessa’s aunt understood what she was trying to get across and helped make sure this could reach readers in the way she intended. As icing, the striking cover, with typography that I love, was designed by someone who is included in the book. This truly demonstrates how high-quality support can be available to indie authors when they reach out.
Heaven Has No Regrets launched at a book store in what was such an exciting day for Tessa. With that, though, came nerves as she was sharing such a personal story that included things she’d never told anyone before. However, thanks to the supportive feedback she’s received, she now finds it much easier to talk about her personal experiences. She actively seeks out speaking opportunities at local events and workshops. She comes up with a theme for each talk and tailors what she says so that the audience gets the most out of it.
In addition to all this, Tessa says that working with a PR agency has been great. It’s helped her find some additional speaking opportunities, get television interviews and magazine features. What Tessa loves most, though, is engaging with readers, by connecting with them around the themes in the book rather than simply self-promoting. She also runs thoughtful competitions with prizes she thinks book lovers will enjoy as well as ‘dandelion wish’ charms that are inspired by the cover of her book. One competition she ran in a US magazine received a whopping 60,000 entries!
You can do it too. Don’t wait for inspiration, just write!
Tessa says her experience shows that absolutely anyone can have a story inside and urges them to keep writing. She says she’s spoken to many people who say they want to write one day or they’ve started but stopped. Each time, she sees such passion burning in their eyes yet they’ve stumbled as if they don’t know where to go with their work. Don’t wait for inspiration, she says, just put pen to paper and it will come!
Loretta Milan is a book blogger and editor at Literary Lightbox who works as a professional writer and has a novel in construction. She is also a speaker and shares regular inspiration for writers worldwide.
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