Former Vancouver Hockey Wife, Katie Bieksa’s Publishing Dreams Come True with Help from The Selfpublishing Agency
Bieksa is a well-known last name amongst Vancouverites – but, this time we aren’t talking about hockey! Wife to former Vancouver Canuck, Kevin Beiksa, it’s Katie who is making news with an amazing career accomplishment – the sell-out launch of her very first book: Newport Jane, earlier this month at Indigo Granville. The long-time Vancouver resident now calls Orange County home, but our city is still near and dear to the new author. In fact, the book was guided to fruition with the help of Vancouver’s Megan Williams of The Selfpublishing Agency, who assists aspiring authors by introducing them to editors, facilitating the publishing process, and helping make the dream of becoming a reality.
I grew up in a small town in Ontario, Canada where at the time you quite literally knew everyone, and worse, everyone knew you. I attended Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario and graduated top of my class with degrees in both Women’s Studies and English Literature. I married my childhood sweetheart, Kevin Bieksa, in the summer of 2006 and then moved to Vancouver, BC the following fall so he could join his team, the Vancouver Canucks. I found out very quickly that hockey life can be unstable, and even though we were never traded in our ten years with the team, it was always in the back (often the front) of our minds. This made working very difficult – often jobs require a little bit of stability. Soon after we settled I became pregnant with my first son, Cole and then two years later we had our daughter, Reese. And just as I started referring to Vancouver as home (and Ontario just where our family lived), we were traded to California, to the Anaheim Ducks. The jump from small town Ontario to Vancouver was a leap; but, Vancouver to Orange County was more like a freefall from 1000 feet.
A lot changed when we moved to the USA. Kevin was gone more often as the drive on one of the busiest freeways in the country increased his practice days by two hours. Plus, I basically knew no one, my kids were nervous, and Donald Trump was running and winning the election. My daughter was now in school full days and the Visa I had basically rendered me housebound. But this all became a blessing as I now had time to write. To be continued…
LIFE IN VANCOUVER
We love EVERYTHING about Vancouver – save the Rain (which we never really minded until we moved to SoCal – 75 and sunny. Every. Day.). There are many reasons Vancouver is one of the best cities in the world. For us, it was the idea that during the winter you can dip your toes in the ocean and then drive twenty minutes to ski down the mountain. The seawall was a staple in our daily routine, our backyard really, as we always lived downtown with two toddlers – and how lucky was that? The culture in Vancouver is special – and not just the museums, art and restaurants; but also the people and diversity. I worked at CFEC (Canucks Family Education Centre) for two years and taught a course on Canadian Citizenship to namely new immigrants. It was a very fulfilling position as I learned so much about the beauty and hardships of the countries the students were from; I realized quickly that differences in cultures should be celebrated, but also that as Canadians, we take a lot for-granted.
LIFE AS A HOCKEY WIFE
Being a ‘hockey wife,’ as it is now referred (perhaps the show started that?), is an interesting role. When I was a younger “hockey wife,” I used to introduce myself to people by listing my accomplishments on my fingers – just to intercept whatever presumptions they were making – gold digger? uneducated? victim of a cheating spouse? I can say now with certainty being a “hockey wife” (i’ll stop doing the quotations now) has been and is such a blessing. I have met so many remarkable women along the way; extremely intelligent, athletic and supportive women – women who I’ve had to turn to more than a hundred times for help during our twelve years in the league. I now tell the younger wives/girlfriends, it doesn’t matter what you say to people, they will think what they want. And its true. When your husband is in the limelight, making lots of money, usually superbly handsome (its almost a hockey requirement) it is easy to give way to insecurities, especially when people (I think they call them internet trolls?) decide to spread gossip, comment on your appearance and cut you down…all this while you’re away from home, speaking a new language and in your twenties (which isn’t easy!) This year a group of us went to a movie (LaLaLand) and one of us noted how special it was that out of the five of us, we each spoke a different language: English (me, I dabble in french and a little Italian), French, German, Finish and Swedish. How cool is that?
I’ve always said I would write a book, in fact I’ve started and abandoned three. Last year I had a unique opportunity to spend time writing. Plus, I had a plethora of new material being a transplant in a new country, that might as well have been a new world.
Beyond the synopsis, the book is about a young woman who finds herself in a new country with a husband who is off working, she has no children, and lets her imagination (fears) get the better of her. Plus, she has an affair with a real cutie! The novel is women’s fiction. Often people undervalue the female everyday experience in literature, labelling it as unoriginal or unexciting. A lot of women go through the same motions everyday but each life is unique and special.There is something nice about a character who people can relate to – maybe not everything, but some aspects where the reader thinks, “Hey, I’ve been there.”
So before I had kids, I loved reading literature, the thing is, now I fall asleep. I devour everything by Emily Giffin (Something Borrowed, Something Blue). I just finished Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. The first novel study I ever did in high school was on Fall on your Knees by Canadian author, Ann-Marie MacDonald. I still love it.
Writing the book was the easy part (although some people liken it to running a marathon); publishing is another story. I think a lot of writers finish the book and naively think, it will be published tomorrow. Wrong. You have to write query letters to agents and then hope you hear back from them. If you’re lucky enough to get a response and by some miracle they want your full manuscript, or a “full” as writers refer, you think, “this is it!” More often, it is not. Then if you get an agent, you may have to do a rewrite. Ugh. (when you have just resolved to give yourself a hefty break from writing). Six months later, someone wants to publish! Hooray! BUT your book won’t be on the shelves until 2019!!! Enter Megan.
You’ve been described as a ‘can’t put it down kind of writer’ – Congratulations on the great review! What are some of your tips – or – is there a ‘formula’ to writing in a way that holds the reader’s excitement?!
How flattering to receive a compliment like that, and from such an accomplished, award winning writer! (toot, toot). It might be too soon for me to be giving tips, but personally, the key was clearly picturing the story, the scenes, and the setting in my head as I wrote. Plus, I used first person and that may allow the reader to connect with the story easier.
THE MAIN CHARACTER – ELLEN:
Oh, Ellen. Three agents wanted to sign my book but all three said I needed to work on Ellen’s “likability.” Ouch. Ellen was like my baby, my first main character. I knew she was flawed but I loved Ellen. I read a study that said men have so much more freedom when it comes to their protagonist: they can swear, be violent, racist, sexist…Women authors on the other hand, are required to be more PC. When I first met my editor, the amazing, Lori Bamber, she said, “We need to work on Ellen…”
So I gave in. The two of us came up with a plan to just “lighten her” a bit. She’s still Ellen, just with a little more sparkle. Ellen is all of us. She’s insecure at times even though she knows better of it, she has hopes and doubts and makes big mistakes. But she’s so human that sometimes people may think, I don’t like her.
RESEARCH FOR THE BOOK:
You know that saying, “write what you know,” well thats exactly what I did. I sat in front of my computer looked out the window at my beautiful neighborhood, made up characters who reminded me of the people I had met, or know and just dove into my imagination. Very little research went into Newport Jane.
Newport Jane is mostly just for fun but it could serve as a reminder to stop living in your head, playing mind-games with yourself, and to COMMUNICATE with your partner, sister and family. Also a reminder to be gentle with yourself and the women (people) around us.
If you’ve already read Newport Jane, you’ve already met my next protagonist: Alice. The new book focuses on Alice and Ryan’s young love, marriage and divorce – and her romance with her younger, Swedish boss! The working title is: A is for Alice.
Insta/FB: @KatieBieksa #NewportJane
ABOUT THE SELFPUBLISHING AGENCY
By Megan Williams
The Self Publishing Agency works with writers at all stages of their writing. Some have already started their manuscript, while others don’t know where to start! Regardless of the stage, we help writers who are serious about becoming authors. Some people refer to us like a wedding planner for writers. You can plan your own wedding, but if you want to save yourself time and money when finding the best photographer or venue is for your style, you hire someone to help! When I was ready to publish my first book, Our Interrupted Fairy Tale, I spent a year, researching, reading blogs, and asking anyone who knew about publishing if they’d have coffee with me to learn about what was entailed in traditional and self publishing.
I wished there was one person who could have told me what to do, and the best way of doing it. I would have saved so much time (and coffee money)! There are a lot of publishing opportunities and resources out there. Some are very expensive and some are very impersonal – neither of what I was interested in. So, like many start-ups, The Self Publishing Agency was born as a result of something I wanted for myself and could support others with.
We are thrilled with Katie’s success. Her signing here in Vancouver sold over 150 copies in 2 hours, making her the most successful indie author to sign at Indigo Granville, ever! My advice for other writers and soon-to-be authors is to keep going. Keep sitting down at that computer or tapping on your iphone, and get the writing done. Then, build a team of people around you who can help bring your book to life and can share the best possible version of your story.
Katie wrote Newport Jane in a similar way that an addicting Netflix show is written. You sit down, become emersed in the story without having to think too hard, and before you know it, two hours have passed. I read the whole book on my iPhone before it was released – it was worth every hour of strained vision!
What makes a great writer? That’s a big question! For me, I enjoy stories that give the readers credit that they understand a scene or character. They’re not drenched in explanations or unnecessary details. I like when a writer who can write a subtle description while still sharing a powerful visual.
A great example from Newport Jane is:
Looking at our wedding picture now, it’s all him…. Even with the sun directly above the two of us, he somehow caught the best light.