by Marleigh Green

I sat down with hybrid author, Bethany Hagen, whose tenure boasts a whopping 28 books under her pen name, Sierra Simone. She began as a traditionally published YA author, and broke out into indie publishing when she decided she wanted to explore writing romance and erotica. Her books include the ever-popular spicy BookTok-recommended Priest, the dark and twisted Thornchapel quartet, and my personal favorite, Misadventures of a Curvy Girl. 

We discussed the merits of traditional versus indie publishing, her thoughts on writing YA versus adult fiction, and how marginalized voices can be amplified outside of the traditional mold of storytelling.

Q: It’s so great to be meeting with you today! I have to start by asking, what made you decide to become a romance writer?

Sierra: I actually got my start writing YA fiction. 

Q: Why the change?

Sierra: It was an organic evolution of moving from YA to adult writing. I worked as a librarian after getting my creative writing degree. I got my first publishing deal at 24/25, and since I was so young, I had no experience advocating for myself or having an anchored creative identity. So I got this publishing deal right as Penguin & Random House had their big merger. My contract got cut short because they were trimming off anyone with low sales. 

Q: That must have been really nerve-racking, did you feel like you’d sort of hit a wall?

Sierra: I’d been asked to rewrite the second book in a series I’d been working on, and I was really burning out on this editorial process that seemed really geared towards pushing a book to trends versus what I imagined the book to be. I also got burned out on the idea that my agent wanted a big, high concept book, and that isn’t what I generate. So I couldn’t find anything new to write that she was interested in selling. A friend suggested I write something just for me, and what I wanted to write was fanfiction of the 2011 Jane Eyre movie with Michael Fassbender. So that’s what I did. I wrote a smutty, Victorian gothic story. I decided to self-publish since my agent didn’t represent romance, and I figured I wouldn’t make enough money to pay for more than my Starbucks. That book was The Awakening of Ivy Leavold.

Q: So what was that experience like, moving from traditional publishing to indie?

Sierra: I didn’t find a ton of readers at first, but I generated enough income to replace what I made as a librarian. I had two young kids at a time, and if I moved to writing full time I could avoid paying for childcare. 

Q: Supplementing your income to be able to write full time is something I think many writers aspire to. What was the biggest difference between writing romance and YA?

You can read the rest of this story by purchasing our print issue or our online flipbook (coming soon)!

Author Bio

Instagram: @thesierrasimone