Episode 17 – Focusing on Your Readers with Steena Holmes

In this episode, Mark interviews USA Today and Amazon best-selling author Steena Holmes.

Steena is an Award winning author from Calgary, Alberta who writes psychological suspense, family drama, women’s fiction and sweet romance. She publishes under an Amazon-owned imprint as well as her own self-publishing imprint, is a fan of reading, of chocolate and of traveling.

Speaking of traveling, Steena, who is a wife and the mother of three daughters, has created an authentic and dynamic relationship with her readers, who she has been a caring and loving tour guide for as she took them on a unique journey with her on her path through writing.  In our conversation, we talk a lot about the importance of this relationship with her readers and in always putting them first.

Before the interview, Mark provides a personal update on the following items:

  • His half-marathon training progress
  • His recent short fiction writing, including a zombie story to appear in Z IS FOR ZOMBIE
  • Some non-fiction writing he has been doing, both short articles as well as the new book he is working on about writing and publishing (which he has written 14,000 words for so far this week)
  • The status of the #FreeFridayFrights project, including some underwhelming responses and views from his recent Friday the 13th Facebook live and YouTube posted videos – but, (AND THIS IS IMPORTANT), why this isn’t something to be down about

Mark then shares this week’s Terrible Tongue Twister. This week’s twist (particularly since you won’t be able to understand what the poor boy is trying to say) is:

Three sweet switched Swiss witches

Watch three washed Swiss witch Swatch watch switches.

Which sweet switched Swiss witch watches

Which washed Swish Swatch watch switch?

The Terrible Tongue Twister segment (AKA “Twisting by the Fool” is sponsored by Findaway Voices, who provide all the tools that an independent author or small publisher needs in order to get into the digital audiobook market.

Check them out at

In their conversation, Mark and Steena talk about:

  • Steena’s hot new release, The Forgotten Ones, a psychological suspense novel that explores the deep dark secrets that are kept hidden from family
  • The inspiration behind the writing of The Forgotten Ones, which came from a really dark time and place in Steena’s life

  • How, despite the darkness of the novel, this was the easiest novel of the more than thirty books that Steena has written
  • Steena’s first novel, Finding Emma, which was a runaway bestseller and the differences between that novel and her latest novel
  • The journal that Steena took her readers on as she slowly migrated across genres
  • The promise that a writer makes to readers with every book that they release and the importance of honoring that promise
  • The emphasis Steena placed in focusing on the readers rather than the sales with each book’s release







  • One of Steena’s pet peeves in a “Don’t Do This” bit of advice for authors
  • How an author can create a genuinely authentic relationship with their readers
  • The tremendous response that Steena receives from readers after she shares a personable and relatable post on her blog
  • Ways that an author can be personable and relatable without revealing personal and private details about their life or their families lives
  • How Steena writes different books in different ways and in different locations to help create a distinction between book projects






  • The way Steena plans on dealing with a recently missed deadline
  • The juggling of writing books for a publisher and her self-publishing imprint
  • Attempts to retain the creative writing into different parts of the day
  • How in the first six months of publishing, Steena made a mere $100; but, in the first month of Finding Emma’s release, she sold 10,000 copies
  • How the readers of Finding Emma kept wanting more and more of the characters and their stories and the various ways Steena fulfilled their needs (without realizing that many of those things were things that a writer supposedly “couldn’t do”)
  • The lesson Steena learned when someone called her out on rushing a book to press by saying “You’re better than this, and your readers deserve better than this.”
  • Steena’s FREE “Branding with Intent” series of emails for writers


After the interview, Mark reflects about Steena’s talk about being personable and someone that readers could relate to. He also reflects on authenticity.

Within Mark’s talk, he considers a well-known figure in self-publishing, Joanna Penn, known from her podcast and blog The Creative Penn and her purposeful positive and optimistic perspective.

He wonders whether only pushing positive things into the world can still be considered authentic.

Mark also looks at some examples, drawn from his conversation with Steena, about how an author can be authentic without revealing too much personal information, and then he asks the listener to consider how they might apply similar things to their own author brand.

Links of Interest:

Steena Holmes is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of titles including Saving Abby, Stillwater Rising and The Memory Child. Named in the Top 20 Women Author to read in 2015 by Good Housekeeping, she won the National Indie Excellence Award in 2012 for Finding Emma as well as the USA Book News Award for The Word Game in 2015. Having her Author Brand featured repeatedly on sites such as Goodreads, BookBub, RedBook, and Goodhousekeeping, Steena is an authority on creating an effective author brand and has been invited to speak on the subject at various author forums around the world. To find out more about her books and her love for traveling, you can visit her website at and

The music for this podcast (“Laser Groove”) was composed and produced by Kevin MacLeod of and is Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

RSS options for this podcast: Mark Leslie at Libsyn or Feedburner

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