Author talks publishing novel


U of I student author Reina McKenzie speaks on writing inspiration and self-publishing Saturday in Stevenson Residence Hall Smart Classroom. McKenzie wrote the book “Stepping Out of Line.”

By Andrew Roberts

Author Reina McKenzie, a sophomore at U of I, was invited to NIU to talk about the release of her third book, “Stepping Out of Line.”

The talk included portions about writing and how to self-publish. McKenzie has self-published three books including “Stepping Out of Line,” “The Trouble Trio,” and “Niño-Niña,” which is published in English and Spanish.

McKenzie plans to be a Bilingual Speech and Language Pathologist, according to her Facebook page.

Q: What’s the kind of thing that gets you going to write a story?

A: … A lot of times certain songs will inspire a plot idea or a character. Seeing an awesome movie it’s like, ‘Man, I want to do something awesome like that.’ So it will inspire me to get back into writing. This specific novel was inspired by a Pokemon game I got for my 16th birthday.

Q: How would you describe [‘Stepping out of Line’] and what does it mean to you?

A: … It is a young adult novel. I tell a lot of people it’s very Pocahontas-y, There’s the main character Hyko and she lives on a fictional island off the coast of a main-land. Her people are set in their ways and she doesn’t necessarily agree with them. Strangers come in and start taking over things and she’s like, ‘I want to do something about this.’ She meets up with one of these new strangers … and they kind of join forces, for lack of a better term, to step out of line and see what they can do.

Q: What was your thought process when you got started? What went from just, ‘This is going to be a story’ to ‘This is going to be a novel?’

A: … I was writing in a notebook one day — this was sophomore year of high school — and one of my friends took my notebook and started to read it and was like, ‘Hey, this is really good. Can I give it back to you at lunch?’ So she took my notebook, read through everything that I had so far in there, and was like ‘Do you have any more?’ For weeks, she would keep asking, ‘Hey, after you write something give it to me. You should publish this it’s really good.’ So once I made the decision to actually publish it I was like, now I have to finish it.

Q: How did you self-publish it?

A: Very simple. You just go online and you look up self-publishing and you figure out which website you want and what will work best for you. There are so many different ones with different prices, different options. So you want to figure out ‘OK, what’s my goal with this? Do I want to share it with a lot of people?’ I did a lot of looking around at different websites, figured out what a book needs to be able to be sold. After I did all of that research I decided to go with CreateSpace. The parent site is actually, which is really neat because after your book is published it’s made available on Amazon.

Q: For someone who is looking to be self-published, what would you say to them?

A:… There’s really nothing stopping you; it’s free. I mean you can spend as much as you want, you can hire people to do the cover, you can find some friends who want to edit it for you. Money is not an issue or anything like that. I would say do it. Do your research on your websites because that makes a big difference, especially in terms of how you want it to sell or if you want it to sell. Do a lot of editing and revising. Since I’ve self-published this has been really rewarding. Don’t let anything stop you from doing it and other than that, edit, edit, edit.