Hellgate Senior Rylee Owens Self-Publishes Book

Liam Queneau and Luke O'Connell

Cover of “Friends, Family, and Other Tragedies.” Photo Courtesy of Rylee Owens.

     Writing a book is no easy task, but Hellgate senior Rylee Owens, under the pseudonym ‘Dillon Walker,’ has done just that. Over the past two years she has written Friends, Family, and Other Tragedies, a book illustrating a “Riveting tale of loss, friendship, and personal growth.” 


     Self-published, Owens controlled everything about the book and its release, and even helped design the cover art. Although her first release was a poetry anthology, rather than a story, Owens makes the point that its purpose was “so that (she) could get a handle on poetry.” 

Having just released her book, Owens talked with us about the writing process and her journey to the final product.


Q: How has the book writing process been? 

A: The first word that comes to mind is chaotic, then fun, then really friggin frustrating. 


Q: What have you enjoyed most about it?

A: Honestly, the feeling of opening up a document and seeing my words and seeing that the word count was in the tens of thousands was something completely baffling to me. I loved watching my characters grow through words that I was writing. It was really crazy for me watching what used to be a nameless stack of notecards, sticky notes, and jumbled scene snippets on a computer turn into a novel was incredible. Also, just watching people respond so well to it. My beta readers loved my book and would call me for feedback sessions emotional because of the words I had written. It was insane to me. So, to make a long winded answer short, seeing my work become real for me and other people was the best part. 


Q: What have you struggled with during the process?

A: For FFT, I had to basically rewrite the book and add a ton of content because I wrote a pretty bare bone first draft. It sucked, but the book is better for it. However, in general, as a writer, I really struggle with descriptions of places. I can see the settings vividly in my mind, but I often forget that my readers can’t. I will give any given setting half a sentence of description and move on, but this isn’t the best way to create in-depth and engaging stories. So, in my first rounds of edits, my main focus is usually adding length to setting descriptions and it sucks, but the book gets better. 

Q:When did you first start writing?

A: I started writing when I was five years old and haven’t stopped yet. I’ve always loved journaling and telling stories. My first true story was actually about a bird who went out to get her babies food and then got shot in the beak. My family was very concerned, but I had fun. 


Q: What made you want to begin writing?

A: It should come as no surprise that I have always loved to read and ever since I was a kid I’ve wanted to become “one of the authors.” I wanted to be the reason someone stayed up way too late to finish a book or be the one to write a book that someone couldn’t stop talking about. 


Q: Where do you find inspiration to write?

A: So, ideas just kind of pop into my head whenever, but most often, my inspiration when it comes to developing characters and tone comes from music most of the time, but usually it’s a snippet of a scene or a dialogue exchange that pops into my head randomly that will spark a story. For FFT I had a very vivid image of a ballerina in pain, two character names that I loved, a lot of random dialogue exchanges that I loved, and really distinct story elements like scenes and settings that just kept bugging me until I wrote them down. 


Q: Lots of authors follow the idea of “writing what they know,” have you taken aspects of your life and inserted them into your work? If so, what parts?

A: Yes. I write teenage characters because I’m a teenager, I write female main characters because I’m a female, I write emotional stories because those are stories that I love to read. 

Author Rylee Owens. Photo Courtesy of Rylee Owens.

Q: How has it been balancing school work with your writing? Do you find that you ever have to prioritize one over the other? If so, is that a tough choice to make? 

A: It’s not easy by any means, and I definitely have to prioritize school over writing sometimes, but I find that if I use all of my time during the school day to get my schoolwork done, I am able to spend a lot more time writing when I get home or during slow times at work. I am also a blogger so I do find issues in balancing my author and blogger writing time. However, I will fully admit that my methods of getting work done and meeting deadlines aren’t always the healthiest. I often forget to eat, stay up too late, and isolate myself. I’ve actually banned the word “break” from my vocabulary for the most part and though I do manage my time well, I’m still a workaholic.


Q: You recently went on a book tour, correct? How has it been?

A: Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, I was forced to cancel/postpone all events. However, I will be doing an MT book tour later this year. The first event will be at Shakespeare and Co.


Q: What have you gained during this process that you feel will help you in the future? 

A: I’ve learned how to manage my time really well, but I’ve also gained a lot of experience in publishing, hiring freelancers, and in business and promoting myself. I’ve also learned a lot about money and how to save it throughout the publishing process.


Q: How did you come up with the plot for this book?

A: FFT took a lot from a terrible relationship that I was in. The relationship in FFT is much worse and blown up a lot from the relationship I experienced, but that is where I got a lot of inspiration for scenes where my main character Andy talks about feeling completely alone and terrified of her partner. However, a lot of FFT was also inspired by music from Dear Evan Hansen, Lorde, and Amy Shark. 


Q: How long did the writing process take? Editing process?

A: To get a finished first draft ready for a polishing edit, it took a year and 8 ish months. Editing took about 2 months and cover art took about 3 weeks. So, in total from start to finish, it took just over two years.


Q: How has it felt being self-published? What do you feel is different between self-publishing and being published by a company? How has the experience impacted you/made the experience different?

A: Self-publishing my own novel is my biggest achievement and I am so excited. There are a lot of differences between indie and traditional publishing. I really wanted to avoid as much sexism in the traditionally published industry as possible, also I’m young, so the chances of a company taking a chance on me are slim to none. With indie publishing, the biggest difference is probably the cost. I paid for everything myself, from editing to cover art, all payments were on me. 


Q: What’s next for you when it comes to being a self-published author? 

A: I’m currently working on my next manuscript (the title is TBD) which I am also writing as a play as I go. 


Q: What college do you plan on attending?

A: I just confirmed my attendance at the University of Puget Sound in the fall. 


Q: Did being an author impact your decision at all?

A: I want to make a living as an indie author/creator, so in picking colleges, I needed a school with a highly accredited business program that offered classes in entrepreneurial studies and I also needed study abroad opportunities, and to be in a place that fostered powerful connections. The University of Puget Sound checked all those boxes for me. 


Q:What led you to use a pen name? Why did you pick Dillon Walker?

A: I started writing to publish when I was 16, I started with my poetry collection, Dreams From Tea And Coffee and I was concerned for my safety, so I made the call to go under a pen name. I will most likely keep the pen name for the rest of my career, even if my real name becomes public. My real name is not a secret, all of my Copyright is under my real name, but I will still go under Dillon Walker. As far as why I chose Dillon Walker as my name, I just liked it. Someone told me I looked like a Dillon and then I picked a random last name.