Arizona State University student Charleigh Reid has aspired to become a published author since high school. Now, her dream has become a reality with the release of her first novel, “Unaware: The Adventures of ViLuma,” a young adult fantasy novel that explores the intersection of inequality, justice and forgiveness.
Reid began writing her book in June 2020, through the Creator Institute’s Book School program, a fast-track book publishing process led by Georgetown University Professor Eric Koester.
Through the program, she was asked to identify what she was passionate about. Reid was inspired by the justice and women and gender studies courses she had taken in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as well as the increased global awareness of social justice issues. She knew she wanted her book to touch on these topics and themes of inequality, justice and forgiveness.
Driven to learn more about these topics, Reid interviewed her friends who have dealt with racism firsthand as well as the leadership team of the Rainbow Coalition at ASU.
From there, Reid crafted a story about four young adults with different backgrounds and experiences who must work together when they find themselves locked in a foreign jail on a planet far from Earth. She said she hopes her story will elicit self-awareness for others about their place in communities and affect their actions positively.
“I really wrote this book because of everything going on in the world,” Reid said. “I wanted to write a book where there were multiple things going on that people could read and hopefully come away a little bit more aware and realizing that we all have something in common.”
Reid plans to graduate next May with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and double minors in women and gender studies and justice studies with a certificate in disability studies. While writing her book, Reid also attended classes, worked part time as a gold guide for ASU’s New Student Programs and served as the history and outreach leader for ASU’s Culture Talk club.
Reid shared more about her writing process, advice for fellow authors and her plans for the future.
Question: You wrote your book under the name L.C. Reid. Why did you choose to use a pen name for your book?
Answer: I chose a pen name because when people look at Charleigh they don't know how to say it, and when they hear it they don't know how to spell it. My legal first name is hyphenated and the initials are L.C. My family has often called me L.C. when they need to shorthand my name, so I chose it because it feels like it is me but it’s still easier for people to understand than my actual name.
Q: What did your process look like for writing the book?
A: Because I was in a program through the Creator Institute, the easiest part of it was probably the fact that I had different deadlines provided for me. I had people holding my hand through the entire process, and I was never alone. There were always people I could turn to and ask questions and talk to. But the hardest part was the timeline. Most authors write a book in three to five years — I wrote this in 10 months. I started it in June and I wrote my first manuscript by Halloween, so it was a very quick process.
Q: How did you balance schoolwork, writing the book and having a job?
A: Luckily, my job is part time so I can work as many or as little hours as I want. When I had schoolwork and my book, I was always busy. I didn't ever have time to sit and watch TV or do anything. I was always in class, doing homework or writing. I got pretty good at balancing. I just had to realize that in order to publish a book, I had to do that for 10 months. I had to be very strict with myself and my schedule. I gave myself breaks to hang out with family and friends, but because we've been in the pandemic, I spent a lot of time at home working on it.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in writing a book?
A: I've recommended the Creator Institute program to a lot of people just because they do hold your hand through it all. It's a lot less daunting because they kind of chunk a lot of it out for you. The hardest part of writing a book is just starting — to sit down and start. I had so many times where I didn't want to go write. But when I started writing my book I couldn't procrastinate because I had deadlines, schoolwork and I also worked so much. I had so many things going on, but I kind of forced myself to do it. Sometimes when you sit down to write your mind is just blank and you have no idea what to write. But you just have to push through that and really sit down and force yourself to do it.
Q: What is something that has been helpful on your ASU journey?
A: The Early Start program gave me a group of friends early on, and it confirmed that ASU was where I was supposed to be and that being an English major was what was best for me. It was a nice bridge between high school and college for me. I went in and I had people leading me to my classes and the same professors. By the time school started, I felt way more confident than some other people I knew.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: I hope to get into ASU’s 4+1 program for English literature and do my master’s. After that, I'm hoping to go into editing and eventually kind of work my way up to becoming an editor. I could definitely see myself writing more books in the future. Right now I’m thinking about taking a break for a little while, but I loved the process of writing a book and I could definitely see myself writing more soon.
“Unaware: The Adventures of ViLuma” can be purchased on Amazon.
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