As the story goes, author Carrie Rosten went to sleep one night and had a dream. And it must’ve been some dream! When she woke up the next day, she wrote her latest tale, Soma So Strange, in its entirety!
Soma So Strange is a children’s book about a creative girl who discovers herself despite the “Meanies,” a group of peers that misunderstand and mistreat her in every way. Her whole life changes when she puts her imagination, and maybe a little bit of magic, to good use. Empowered with newfound abilities, she finds she can overcome almost anything.
When Soma So Strange was rejected by her former publisher for being too unconventional, Carrie did what any self-respecting author with talent does these days – she published it herself!
To some, self-publishing may seem frightening, and to others, a road too risky to consider. But not for Carrie. She comes from a family of writers (her great-uncle wrote Shrek!), she knows her way around a word or two, and possesses the keen ability to make things happen. She is, in every sense, a rare and determined breed.
Luckily, I’m able to consider Carrie Rosten a great teacher of mine. We’ve shared many interesting, enlightening experiences together (I’m recalling Palm Springs, an outdoor fire pit, and some kind of adult beverage). She taught me the importance of how both business and creative endeavors work together, how to choose my battles, and perhaps most importantly, how to patiently accept criticism like a grown up. These are invaluable things I’m ever grateful for her sharing with me. Because of her, in many ways I became a better, more confident writer.
I had the honor of recently getting together with Ms. Rosten, author of Soma So Strange, as well as the YA book, Chloe Leiberman (Sometimes Wong). We talked about her new book, the process in which it came about, her inspirations, and how publishing independently is one the most freeing things she’s ever done.
What was your main inspiration for writing Soma So Strange? Hi Robbie! Well, I had a dream. A literal dream, and the next morning Soma was born. I wrote Soma So Strange in this surreal, meditative state and by the day’s end the story was done.
How long has Soma “lived” with you before seeing the light of day?
I have NO idea where she came from but I think she has always been with me from the very beginning.
Was it originally intended to rhyme?
No. She just came out like that.
Does your own experience reflect Soma’s in some ways?
Yes. I was never bullied but I was certainly teased. I also asked a lot of questions — particularly the kind that kids aren’t expected to, or supposed to ask, whatever that means. Growing up as a mixed-race, “indie” girl in LA was challenging too– this was late 80s/early 90s so I was often pointed out for being “different,” which I was, inside and out! But it didn’t feel good to have my differences announced in public, you know? (i.e. at school.)
Tell me about the book’s artist, her work, and how you got involved with her.
Lisa Lim was sent to me via Cosmic Fed Ex. She is an incredible, NY-based firecracker. I had seriously given up the search for the right artist to draw little Soma and then, Poof!, LL came into my world! This was courtesy of my great friend Nancy and MOCA, the Museum of the Chinese in the Americas. LL and I are now great friends and I hope we continue our inspired collaboration.
What do you hope readers, young and old, will take away from this story?
That asking questions is never, ever wrong. That an adventure awaits each of us every day if we are willing to venture out and leave “home.” That strange is beautiful. That “magic” by way of larger, karmic forces will put bullying to an end. That pain can be transformed into joy, and that something horrible and mean can become something sweet and delicious and abundant if you believe in the power of change.
Why did you choose to self publish?
Because my old publishers didn’t want Soma! Wah-wah. But, I felt empowered when I finally decided to self-publish. I am thrilled that I did since I’ve wanted to share this story with “alternative” families for years. I don’t mean alternative in a traditional sense of the oh-I’m-pierced-and-tatted product of the 90s…what I mean is someone who thinks about the world in an unconventional way and who is living their lives, building a family, on their own unique terms.
What are some challenges about self-publishing?
Technology! Well, from the e-publishing POV. It’s amazing how few people are comfortable downloading an e-book. Also, formatting.
Since “Soma So Strange” is an e-book for now it’s impossible to have the story look and read identically across all screens.
Self-publishing is also challenging insofar that one has to wear many hats at once, which can be overwhelming. It’s a process that has forced me, in a good way, to learn new things and ask for help. There should be a support group for self-published authors! Maybe I should start one.
Do you hope to have a print version of the book one day, or is strictly for the digital age?
Absolutely. Hopefully by XMAS. The more people who sign-up on my site the sooner Soma will be in print. So sign-up please!
What are pitfalls you would bring to young writer’s attention?
The ego is a huge pit to fall into, so don’t get attached to anyone’s opinion of your work, good and bad. Manage your expectations and continue to write as if no one is watching. No one is except your own ego. Also, don’t Google yourself. Well, try not to. Keep writing whether a big publisher or small publisher or no publisher decides your story is worth it. Storytelling is sharing and sharing is always good.
What do you envision the next Soma tale being about?
I am almost done with it! I can’t share too many details BUT I can tell you this: Soma So Strange Part Deux involves an epic villain named Count Origami who kidnaps Soma’s new bestie, a cave-dwelling star-mapper by birth named Temmie. Soma rescues him and of course there are some other new pirates along the way who rally to Soma’s cause.
I can’t wait for the next chapter!
You can purchase your very own copy of Soma So Strange here: SOMA SO STRANGE