Sierra Isley is a young adult author originally from Atlanta, Georgia, but currently based in Philadelphia. She graduated from Florida State University in 2021 with a degree in Editing, Writing and Media. Outside of writing, her passions include filmmaking, social media communications and drinking chai lattes. Her debut novel, a young adult romance IN THE RING, releases September 15, 2023. Meet Sierra…
You are an author, but is it your day job? My day job is communications and social media for a non-profit in Philadelphia. I love my day job!
Did you always want to be an author? Yes and no. As a kid, I wrote “books” in my journals and read constantly. In high school, I harnessed my passion for storytelling through filmmaking. I made short films with my friends and took classes at a local film non-profit. I did a year of film school and then realized I was more passionate about writing. I still love film and would love to adapt a book someday.
What is your most recent book and what inspired you to write it? My debut novel, In the Ring, was inspired by my experience dealing with severe anxiety. My anxiety disorder was at its worst when I was in high school; I found relief in physical activities like walking and jogging. At the time, I was volunteering for a non-profit housed in a recreation center and one of my instructors decided to buy a punching bag. He taught me the basics of boxing. I felt capable and strong for the first time in a while. I translated that experience into my main character, Rose, who has anxiety and joins a boxing gym after being harassed at a party. She heals by discovering her physical and mental strength.
How do you hope your book uplifts those who read it? I hope In the Ring reminds readers that there are many different ways to heal — therapy, physical activity, conversations with friends, etc. There’s no right or wrong way to better yourself, and it’s never too late to seek help if you need it.
What are you most excited about with this book? In the Ring is my debut so I’m thrilled to finally have a book in the world. I can’t wait to connect with readers, librarians, and educators. This is all brand new to me so I’m cherishing every moment.
How did writing a book help your career take off? Now that In the Ring has found a publisher, I have more time to write other stories. I’m currently working on my second book, a YA romcom about a werewolf who rushes a fraternity. I hope my success with In the Ring helps my future work find a home, too.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to succeed in your professional industry? Publishing is all about patience. Reader, I am not patient. Trying to get In the Ring published has truly been a difficult task. I learned that I need to prioritize self-care and seek out ways to fill my time that aren’t refreshing my email inbox 24/7. Try out a new hobby or recipe. Escape into a new book. Binge your favorite Netflix show. And remember, rejections are not personal. Your book is important and it will find a home.
How do you handle setbacks and criticism? Art is subjective; I always remind myself that not everyone will feel the same way about my book as I do. For example, a book I love (so much so that it inspired me to get a tattoo) has tons of negative reviews. But it changed my life and the same might happen to somebody who reads my book.
Being an author today is like running a business. How do you manage all your publicity, social media and keep your engagement up with readers? I wish there were an easy way to juggle everything. I keep a “Debut Year” document where I’ve laid out the milestones I want to complete that month. For example: submitting interview questions, creating TikToks, pitching myself to a blog, etc. It helps to be able to cross things off a list. I spend time every day on TikTok hoping to find potential readers and connect with other writers.
How do you hold yourself accountable and achieve the goals that you set forth? Lists. When I decide I really want to do something, I break it into steps that I can check off as I go. It also helps to talk through my goals with writer friends since they encourage me to keep at it.
How do you structure your day and make time for writing? I like to write on the weekends so I can sit in my favorite coffee shop — I always get the most inspiration there. If I’m writing on weekdays, it’s usually for an hour or so after work.
What do you find most fulfilling in the career that you’ve chosen? I’m a storyteller at heart. Every day, I wake up excited to write because it means I get to tell stories and develop my characters. I love knowing that someone out there might get their hands on my book and feel inspired.
What book uplifts you? I always feel my best after reading a rom-com. One of my recent favorites is Jake Maia Arlow’s How to Excavate a Heart.
Anything else you’d like to share with your readers? Read what inspires you, challenges you, and/or brings you joy.
Connect with Sierra on her website.
Images Courtesy of Sierra Isley